Young people must be disruptors, says UWI boss

The new Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Robert Bermudez is encouraging Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean to embrace disruptors – a term that has come to be associated with new entities that do not conform to the traditional way of doing business, eventually disrupting and displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances.

In responding to a call from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for the university to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation as it seeks to respond to some of the region’s more pressing challenges, Bermudez pointed to the disruptive economy as the way to go.

“We have to teach young people to be disruptors. Entrepreneurship is really people’s willingness to be disruptive and the UWI must encourage that. To try to stop it is a losing proposition, so we must embrace it,” the new chancellor said.

Stating that the Caribbean was made up of micro-economies, he stressed the importance of sticking together and speaking with a collective voice in order to have relevance in the world.

“The university has to be more engaging. It must become more integrated because we need people in all kinds of areas to help,” he said.

Bermudez recently paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister, during which Stuart cautioned against considering the export of Caribbean nationals to other parts of the globe as a regional brain drain.

The Prime Minister contended that the export of manpower was not a disadvantage “because it is important to have our own people strategically dispersed across the world, especially in metropolitan countries”.

The chancellor agreed that having Caribbean nationals living overseas could be an asset to the region, but only if members of the Diaspora continued to consider themselves Caribbean people living abroad rather than “people who came from the region”.

The challenge, he said, was to figure out how to keep these nationals engaged.

The responsibility of the UWI, he submitted, was to produce nationals who understood the important role they had to play in the region’s development. “The more our graduates see themselves as citizens, the more we can solve our social problems. We need a lot of hands on deck at a lot of levels,” he said. 

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