– through BIT, Natural Resources Ministry programme
By Kiana Wilburg
The Board of Industrial Training (BIT) has answered a call by the Ministry of Natural Resources to help retrain former sugar workers and residents of Berbice for reintegration into the labour market, as well as for participation in the oil and gas sector.
This is being executed under the Ministry’s IN-STEP Programme, which was launched last Friday.
Offering remarks at the ceremony, which was held at the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) Training Centre was BIT’s Chairman, Mr. Clinton Williams.
The Chairman noted that the Ministry of Natural Resources is providing the funding for 100 persons to be trained at GuySuCo Training Centre. BIT’s role involves supervision of the programme followed by the provision of the necessary certification at the end of the programme.
Under the IN-STEP Initiative, Williams noted that BIT will continue to review the course content and curricula, together with the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
During his remarks, Williams took the opportunity to recognize the sterling contributions made by GuySuCo over the last decade in partnering with BIT as a “Master” in the delivery of the now internationally renowned Apprenticeship Programme. The official said that BIT is indeed grateful for the state entity’s continued support in the delivery of the unique programme.
The BIT Chairman stated that Guyana’s development programme will continue to be largely influenced by the availability and competence of its technical and occupational skilled workforce. He said that Guyana, like many other developing countries, has been experiencing a widening gap between workplace skill needs and skill supply.
Williams said that this mismatch continues to be largely influenced by the stigma attached to Technical and Vocational Education and Training, in that, TVET is viewed as the last resort for academically weak students, hence the continued prevalence of low standards displayed by skills generated.
Williams noted that recent Labour Market Intelligence Surveys have reconfirmed significant skill shortages in the traditional sectors, which have been further compounded as a result of the undesirable increasing phenomenon of “skill poaching” between sectors. Against this background, Williams said that new sectors are emerging in Guyana such as Oil and Gas, Ecotourism and Clean Energy and Hydropower Development. He said that these sectors will require industrial skills of an international standard.
The BIT Chairman said that this increasingly unmet demand is disappointing, more so devastating, particularly since those young people leaving the formal school system as “dropouts” or as “disadvantaged youths”, do so without being provided with an opportunity to also contribute to the national development drive through pertinent interventions.
On this note, the BIT Chairman said that a similar situation has now been created with the closure of some sugar estates, which led to the obvious retrenchment of a number of unskilled workers. Williams noted that the National Training Programme for Youth Empowerment has been conceived to address this particular dilemma.
The goal of the Programme is to contribute to the national demand for occupational skills by the training and development of youths, particularly disadvantaged youths, to become self-employed or to access gainful employment within the private and/or public sector.
“That is why this collaboration should be seen as an integral part of our programme of intensifying the delivery of relevant occupational, technical and vocational skills
training with a view to addressing entry level occupational skills demand for current and emerging industries/services i.e. both the public and private sector.”
“Starting with a total of approximately 570 graduates in 2005, the programme has grown tremendously over the years to the extent that by the end of 2017, over 22,000 persons from all 10 Administrative Regions and in numerous skill sets namely, Engineering and Building Trades, ICT, Forestry, Home Economics, Health Services would have been trained.”
“For 2018, our initial target is 1470 trainees but through this collaboration, together with another partnership with the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF), the intake this year is likely to substantially increase to 2040 this year compared to 1500 in 2017.”
Further to this, the BIT Chairman said that in recent times, the entity has placed added emphasis on vulnerable groups such as school dropouts, youths from depressed communities (particularly those from hinterland regions), single parents and the differently abled.
“Moreover, we are continuing our quest to implement cost reduction strategies; thereby increasing intake via optimizing utilization of publicly owned facilities such as technical and vocational institutions, practical instruction centers (Ministry of Education) and recognized NGO’s in addition to privately owned facilities. We are convinced that these actions would not only positively impact on employment generation, entrepreneurship and empowerment, but also contribute to poverty alleviation and crime prevention.”
Williams said that these programmes should therefore be viewed as vital socio-economic interventions, and also, an integral part of the current administration’s mantra to provide a good life for all of the people of Guyana.
As for way forward, the Chairman said that BIT intends to ensure that there is continuous improvement of its TECH-VOC Programmes by reviewing and prioritizing several core elements.
These include: alignment with Guyana’s Development Strategy; Improvement in Governance arrangements; More emphasis on employer engagements; Increased funding and incentives systems; Reconfigure curriculum design and delivery systems; Review and improve assessment mechanisms in order to ensure quality assurance and accreditation; and ensure marketable certification further progression.
In closing, Williams encouraged the participants of the IN-STEP Programme to stay focused while noting that the skills, which will be passed on to them and will allow for the assumption of a dual role—Competent Practitioners and Good Ambassadors of the programmes.
“You will therefore be seen as the sales person for these programmes and motivate us to replicate them in other communities. In so doing, you will forever be proud of yourself, you will make your sponsors proud and most of all, you will make your country proud for having made this investment in you.”
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