Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Editorial: Career planning is critical

Published:Saturday | April 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The revelation that there is high demand in the marketplace for graduates of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) and the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts is an indication of the role creative-mindedness and innovation are playing in the 21st-century skills agenda.

According to Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, nine of 10 students who attend the CMI will receive job offers on graduation. And there is also robust demand for musicians, graphic designers and visual communicators who graduate from Edna Manley College.

What is emerging from these numbers is that the always-in-demand jobs may not be as relevant today as they were in former years. This is borne out by the fact that some graduates are reportedly struggling to find jobs several months after graduation. There have been reports that those in the job hunt sometimes include doctors and attorneys-at-law, and this has prompted many to ask whether we are training more doctors and lawyers than we really need.

Take the training of doctors. We believe that the national doctor-patient ratio should be the benchmark for determining the number of doctors needed in the future. The emphasis on a primary care-based medical system requires that more doctors be assigned in this area. Even though Jamaica has been graduating more doctors, most of them settle in the urban areas, so rural Jamaica continues to experience a dearth of medical talent. Then there are others who choose to take their skills overseas. So is the country really benefiting from the increasing numbers of doctors?

But there is a glaring imbalance as far as specialisation is concerned. There are some specialist areas in the private medical system where it takes several weeks to get an appointment because demand for these services far outweighs the available skills. The deficit in these specialist areas points to lack of projection in training.

There are also indications that there are more lawyers than available legal jobs, even allowing for attrition by retirement, death and other reasons. Where are these lawyers going to find work?

Ms Hanna, in her interview with The Gleaner, urged young people to carefully evaluate their career choices. We believe there is also a need for career advisers within the schools to be knowledgeable about which industries are expanding and to be flexible in steering their charges in the relevant career-development path.

We submit that a rational approach to training is necessary in a developing country such as Jamaica, in order to effectively improve the economy and the quality of life. It cannot be simply about filling classes with individuals and collecting fees. Comprehensive labour-market research and analysis is required to guide our national planners and policymakers. With the world taking greater interest in things environmental and as businesses continue to rely more heavily on technology, career planning must take these areas into consideration as policymakers seek to assess and satisfy the country's future skills needs.