The stigma and prejudices associated with technical and vocational education is not
unique to Guyana but, according to Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, efforts are certainly being made, locally, to direct keen intervening attention to this state of affairs. This move coincides with similar ones ongoing in the Caribbean to fully embrace Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
Speaking on Wednesday at a Regency Suites Hotel forum designed to forge partnerships with the local business sector and the providers of TVET, the Minister was eager to outline that “all across the world we still have a lot of stigma and prejudices that we have to overcome….”
In highlighting the importance of TVET in the overall economic development of the nation, she pointed out that sustained efforts are being made by the Education Ministry to lead the establishment of a comprehensive TVET curriculum that is targeted for secondary level schools. “Today’s event is appropriately themed ‘workforce development, critical importance of TVET in secondary schools’ could not have come at a better time,” said Manickchand as she disclosed that currently the sector has on record the most students ever embracing TVET programmes across Guyana.
Currently there are TVET institutions in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and 10, and there are plans in the making for one to be constructed in Region Nine.
The forum titled ‘industry linkages’ was coordinated by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the TVET Council and the Government of Canada, and was designed to help re-position TVET for workforce development. The intent of this re-positioning is to ensure that TVET is industry/employer-driven and responsive to employers’ needs, in light of the fact that ‘industry partnership’ with technical institutes is considered a vital component in the development of a World Class 21st century workforce that is knowledge-based.
And this approach was especially important since, according to Assistant Chief Education Officer (ACEO-Technical) Patrick Chinedu, many employers have been complaining that graduates have not been responding to their specific needs. On the other hand, he noted that TVET providers have also been complaining that employers are hardly paying attention to their involvement in the training process.
“I am happy that a good number of you are here today, as to determine how we can engage each other so that we can produce the workforce that is going to take Guyana in this 21st century where the country can be competitive in the global village,” said the ACEO.
Adding his voice to the TVET discourse was Chairman of the TVET Council, Clinton Williams, who told the gathering that based on a recent labour market intelligence survey conducted by the TVET Council, together with the Ministry of Labour, with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank, five sectors were surveyed – Engineering and Construction, Forestry, Manufacturing, Hotel/Hospitality and Commerce.
Williams said in all of these areas it was found that there were reports of skills shortages, and in addition to evidence of skills poaching, the shortage of skills has been linked to migration.
“These skills shortages are having resultant negative effects on high prices and possible consequential on competitiveness in the export market for our product and services,” Williams stressed. This has therefore resulted in the emergence of new sectors which, according to Williams, has created a greater demand for occupational skills for all sectors as a whole.
Guyana’s efforts to expand the availability of the technically skilled is gaining support from the Government of Canada since, according to Daniel Joly, Head of Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Development of Canada, that country has long learned that cooperation between industry and education is an essential component for technical training programmes.
And this cooperation, Joly noted, is designed to ensure that training is demand-driven and meets the needs of industry.
“Simply put, industry gets students with relevant skills and students get the jobs…” said Joly, as he underscored that Canada is proud to be sponsoring such an initiative.
Also speaking at the start of the forum was Craig Morrison, Senior Technical Advisor attached to the Caricom Education for Employment programme (CEFE), which is a C$20 million programme sponsored by the Government of Canada. According to him, the programme which was responsible for supporting the local TVET efforts is one that helps to build capacity at the regional, national and institutional levels.
“It is a very comprehensive programme and I am very pleased to be a part of it,” said Morrison. The CEFE programme is being implemented across CARICOM in 12 countries.
The forum saw the attendance of a number of students of technical institutions who will ultimately be the beneficiaries of the collaboration.
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