The travails of the sugar industry have brought to the fore a constraint on our quest for development that somehow does not receive the attention that it ought to – the need to develop and retain competent managers for our productive sector.
The dramatic fall in sugar production is a direct consequence not of low rainfall as has been so frequently touted but of the failure of our post-secondary educational institutions, in conjunction with GuySuCo, to produce managers as of yore that could deal with the constraint of constricted water supply.
If one were to review the historical record, there have always been periods of drought but none of them have been correlated with such precipitous drops in production as we have experienced recently. The old managers had the training and institutional memory to deploy their resources in such a manner so as to ameliorate the worse effects of droughts. Rainfall may have been the ultimate cause but management inadequacy is certainly the proximate cause of our present sugar woes.
But the problem of qualified managers is not restricted to the sugar industry. In fact one could make a case that the inability of our manufacturing sector to break out of the bottling of sodas from syrup imported from abroad is due to our unwillingness to focus on the training of managers focusing directly on manufacturing concerns. We have the several Government Technical Institutes and the GuySuCo Apprenticeship School but these are all geared towards producing craftsmen, not managers.
What is needed is a higher institute, or a component of UG, to fill this gap in our educational system. There are some that may respond that we are already flooded with too many “business” graduates that cannot even find jobs.
But that is part of the problem: the common perception of what constitutes “business” is “accountancy” and “office procedures”. This might be due to the influence of the American drift towards the concentration on finance for their Business Graduates but this was a direct consequence of the “financialization” of their economy.
It is now apparent that the US downgraded their manufacturing sector, beginning in the eighties, and plunged into esoteric financial transactions such as derivatives and collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) from which they could spin “money from money” in a seemingly never-ending upward spiral. Profits from financial services soared past that from the manufacturing sector; until the bubble burst, that is. The US is now busily scratching its head as it tries to get its manufacturing base together again – but it faces the problem of lack of managers trained in this area.
While there has been much chatter about IT becoming our economic saviour, it should be apparent by now that agriculture and forestry – with manufacturing sectors tailored to generate value added profits – are more realistic near-term options. But for us to reap the maximum benefits from these options – or for these options to be even feasible – we have to train managers to take us to a new level. This is because while we have been engaged in agriculture and forestry for a century, we have been stuck at the “mom-and-pop” scale of operations because of a lack of professional managers at the helm of most of them.
With new leadership at UG we have been regaled with optimistic plans for reinvigorating that institution. The reality however, is that with all the highfalutin rhetoric of “higher” education, most universities become successful (and not so incidentally, prosperous) when they produce graduates that are demanded by the economy – either existent or emergent. So while in theory there is nothing intrinsically wrong in churning out thousands of, say, sociology majors, we should not be surprised when they wither on the vine.
We have heard murmurings from the soda-bottler manufacturing clique of partnering with UG to produce graduates for “industry”. But this is the way of the “same ole, same ole”.
The government has to take the bull by the horns, as China and India and all the Far Eastern Tigers did, and introduce training for managers that are actually needed by the emergent economy.
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