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SJPP review needed

Valedictorian Tamar Phillips

The high level of youth unemployment in Barbados is a concern.

This from Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo, who last Saturday addressed the 2012 graduates of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic at the ceremony held at the WIldey Gymnasium.

She commended the SJPP on the positive achievements the school made in the delivery of technical and vocational education and training in Barbados, but noted that if the country was to remain competitive in today’s global climate there was still a significant amount of room for improvement.

The minister added that there were concerns raised by some employers that workers did not possess all of the necessary attributes, including: punctuality, dedication, responsibility and team work, to support their operations. This, she said, created shortages in several sectors while at the same time there existed a pool of people who had difficulty finding employment.

“We need to constantly question whether the graduates of the polytechnic are finding employment in their areas of training, whether they are satisfying their employers’ needs and whether they are skilled enough to build successful businesses – that is what we need to be looking at, not just the numbers taken and the numbers we are turning out, but the quality and how they impact the workforce.

“First and foremost, training at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic must become demand driven. There must be a shift of focus from just ensuring access to an institution and graduation with certificates to one where emphasis is placed on monitoring and evaluating the training delivered in order to ensure that it is effective in meeting the needs out there in the various sectors of the economy.

“We must understand that ultimately, the training the students receive at the polytechnic will account for very little if the skills and competencies required are of no tangible benefit to employers. The current economic situation has stimulated the need for such introspection as we witness on a daily basis the effects of the economic recession in the United States and in Europe.

“We experience how such an external shock could so negatively impact Barbados’ economy. Based on these factors we can see that there is clearly a need for certain transformations in the training system in Barbados.”

The Labour Minister added: “The high level of youth unemployment creates a sense of urgency for a change in the way we address the issue of work force development and this is not only in Barbados. We are told that around the world youth unemployment numbers are actually three times what the general unemployment figures are, and we see some parts of the world youth unemployment is at eight per cent and it goes all the way up to 20, 30 and … even more than 50 per cent,” she said.

Principal Hector Belle also echoed similar sentiments. He said he also believed there was room for improvement and added that the institution would introduce a plan of action to revise the way students were assessed and certified in an effort to allow greater flexibility in their work load.

Currently, students who did not pass all of the courses of their programme are not awarded any certification. However, he said that beginning in the academic year 2012/2013, systems would be in place to reward students in a more tangible way for their success. They will issue certificates for those areas in which they have been successful, the credits from these can be accumulated for the full polytechnic certificate or diploma, so no one would leave the institution empty-handed.

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