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Caribbean Maritime Institute - smooth sailing to success

Published:Friday | January 15, 2016 | 1:04 AM
Students leaving the Caribbean Maritime Institute.
Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute.
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The Caribbean Maritime Institute is the recipient of the 2015 Gleaner Honour Award in the category Education.

Since it began operations in 1980, the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) has undergone a number of changes and has now transformed itself into one of the leading training institution in the region, with its graduates in demand the world over.

Executive director Fritz Pinnock noted that the CMI has received a number of global awards from places such as Oman and Switzerland, which have recognised the Jamaican standard bearer as, among other things, a world business leader in education and a global quality ambassador.

The CMI, soon to be renamed the Caribbean Maritime University, started as the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute, the result of a collaborative effort between the Government of Jamaica and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, with the primary aim of training Jamaican nationals to manage the Jamaica Merchant Marine's fleet of five ships. Temporarily located at 9 Norman Road, Kingston, the school started with 30 Jamaican students enrolled in the Merchant Marine deck and engineering classes, as it sought to fill the need for "able-bodied seamen". Four years later, it relocated to Palisadoes Park and has since differentiated itself as innovator and leader in the otherwise saturated tertiary education space.

The CMI continues to be recognised especially for using its limited resources to resolve major challenges where funding, physical infrastructure and size are concerned.

 

Professional standards

 

Pinnock explained the defining philosophy that has transformed the CMI into a global leader and continues to set it apart and ahead of other tertiary institutions.

"All our degrees, we align them with professional standards because this is what the world is looking for, people who can produce in the professional space, so that's part of our new mandate. So we follow the market, unlike other institutions that create a programme, then go and look for students to come in the programme and then you find the programme is misaligned to the industry. We go to the industry first, find out what their needs are and work backwards and create the training programmes. This explains why we have the highest placement of graduates among all the tertiary institutions throughout Jamaica despite the recession, because we position our people for the global marketplace."

 

Graduates in demand

 

Add to that the fact that all training programmes are aligned to professional standards and one can begin to appreciate why CMI graduates are in demand. Always challenging itself, the CMI team continues to be a pacesetter, anticipating and preparing, according to its executive director. The need to mix academics with professionalism is a wave of the future that the soon-to-be university has been riding for quite some time.

He explained: "All of our degree programmes we seek to align them with professional standards, so the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the United Kingdom - which is the body internationally that certifies and accredits logistics and supply chain programmes - we are the first in the Caribbean and the Americas too to receive full accreditation from them for the degree programmes. So all of our graduates, when they finish these programmes, are accepted as members of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, so the academic degrees carry a professional backing."

He continued: "What we have done further is look at global trends and put them into our degree programmes. Now all out students at the higher level are doing Mandarin, not just Spanish. One out of every four people in the world is a Chinese. So we have to relate to them so all our fourth-year students are now doing the second level of Mandarin, along with Spanish. We recognise that we live in a global space, so it's no longer enough for you you to just know English - you now have to prepare yourself to become a global citizen," Pinnock said.

One of the exciting new programmes set to get under way this year will offer training in mechatronics - a multidisciplinary field of engineering that includes a combination of systems engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering and computer engineering. Its objective is a design process that unifies these subfields of engineerings.

"We have to train people to think across the space," Pinnock advised. This is especially important since the market is increasingly demanding people who can solve problems.

"Don't tell me that you're trained in 'I've got a problem and I need that problem to be solved'. So when our marine engineers are going to sea, we have to train them to work on the ship engine, work on the elevators, work on the boilers and if you don't have the parts, you better go in the machine shop and make something to carry you ashore. You can't tell the captain, 'I'm pleased to report I found the problem but we don't have the parts' because there is no supermarket or shopping centre out there. You have to solve your problems."

Interestingly, it is the willingness and ability to learn which has made the CMI such an effective training institution.

"We can't force the world to come to what we want to give them, we have to follow the trends globally and adjust our programmes. As a good navigator you can't fight the winds but you can adjust your sails," said Pinnock.

"My team is fully behind this advanced pace of training adults and how we can create unique value, so it's about studying the mindset of a changing environment; how to become agile; how to be flexible. It's no longer about me trying to get a hundred per cent, but about how can I get 50 per cent of a bigger pie? Because 50 per cent of a million is more than a hundred per cent of a thousand so that's the context. We have to change our language, change our thinking from trying to own things to try to become a partner in a bigger pie. So this is what I'm seeing for the space and I'm quite excited."