Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Marcia Rowe Amonde: Revolutionising the workforce

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Marcia Rowe Amonde
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WITHIN OUR post-secondary and tertiary education, and training system, many students are pursuing programmes and courses, yet they are uncertain as to what their next steps in life should be. In other cases, there are graduates who cannot find jobs, and, in fact, some are underemployed, leading to frustration and disillusionment.

As technical vocation education and training (TVET) administrators and practitioners, we continue to be challenged by negative perceptions from students and their parents, and, in some cases, school leaders and teachers, towards this subject area. These perceptions have resulted in the rejection of the idea that students who are considered academically brilliant should pursue TVET programmes as career paths.

However, with the focus on education for work, this perception is changing. There is now a growing interest in TVET, and its position on the development agenda has been elevated as it is widely accepted as playing a major role in equipping individuals with the skills and competencies needed for the jobs of today and those of tomorrow.

According to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (2007), estimates from European countries show that a one per cent increase in training days leads to a three per cent increase in productivity. UNESCO (2004) has articulated an inspiring vision for TVET, describing it as "the master key that can alleviate poverty, promote peace, conserve the environment and improve the quality of life for all". A cadre of well-trained professionals helps to attract foreign direct investment and leads to productivity and growth.

 

REDUCING YOUTH EMPLOYMENT

TVET has the potential to reduce the unemployment of youth. There is the view that young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Through TVET, young people can acquire the necessary skills that can facilitate employment creation. The potential and benefits of TVET extend beyond an economic or instrumental rationale.

TVET also has a social potential in that it is able to foster human development and empower and transform lives in the process. The human development approach to TVET sees work as more than an income and realises that, through work, individuals can gain identity and self-respect and be transformed. When TVET is successfully delivered, economies, communities and individuals stand to benefit.

Jamaica and the region have recognised the importance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and so it has been gaining momentum over the past few years. The Ministry of Education, Youth & Information launched the National TVET Policy in 2014, recognising TVET's potential to inspire foreign and domestic investments and building human capacity. In that same year, CARICOM launched the Regional Strategy for Workforce Development, which seeks to strengthen TVET across the region. Further afield, UNESCO published the revised recommendations for TVET IN 2015.

In order to deliver TVET effectively, it is important to have children in schools where they can acquire a solid foundation of general education on which TVET can build. Quality primary and secondary education is, therefore, an important foundation for TVET. Of utmost importance is the need to develop strong public-private partnerships as the framework for an effective and sustained TVET system.

This is important to ensure the relevance and responsiveness of TVET in order for training to be matched with the needs of employers and for the successful implementation of the Registered Apprenticeship Programme (RAP) and other on-the-job training initiatives. Partnerships are critical to successful TVET and, therefore, efforts have to be aligned with private-sector, government agencies, and TVET providers.

 

LABOUR MARKET INTELLIGENCE

With the increasing interest in TVET comes the need to attend to quality TVET. Ensuring quality in the process of developing programmes and their components is, therefore, important. The HEART Trust/NTA has placed increasing emphasis on these areas with the launch of a Labour Market Information Portal which ensures that the development of programmes is guided by labour-market intelligence, evaluated data, and that these programmes are clearly aligned to occupations, learning and accreditation standards. Currently, the organisation has recognised the need to focus on three key growth sectors - business process outsourcing, tourism, and hospitality and logistics.

TVET is no longer just about learning a trade, with the focus on separating the hands from the head. The knowledge worker who can demonstrate the acquisition of conceptual skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and ICT skills is now important to the profile of the TVET graduate.

Gone are the days when a mechanic lies under the car on a piece of cardboard in overhauls to diagnose mechanical problems. This diagnosis is now done through computer diagnostic tools. It is, therefore, important that TVET programmes respond to the evolving requirements of jobs, as is now being done at the Jamaica-German Automotive School operated by the HEART Trust/NTA.

Education and training institutions must design and deliver programmes to produce graduates who can be innovative, critical thinkers and entrepreneurs with the integration of international standards and aligned to social and economic goals. Only with these skills will the likelihood of graduates gaining employment be consistently realised.

This is a departure from how TVET was once perceived, and it is, therefore, time that we take note of the new and emerging areas in TVET and provide the career guidance necessary to allow our students to see these as viable options and pathways to careers and further learning.

- Marcia Rowe Amonde, PhD, is senior director, TVET development and support services and HEART Trust/NTA. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.