Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Blame the education system! - Schools accused of failing to train for emerging jobs

Published:Monday | July 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer

Struggling to find workers to fill several vacancies, employers are of the view that educational institutions are lagging behind when it comes to preparing Jamaicans for job opportunities.

The 2017 Labour Market Trends and Prospects for Employment Opportunities in Jamaica, prepared by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, has identified several growing sectors that will generate job opportunities in Jamaica in the coming months.

These include business process outsourcing, tourism, creative industries (animation and film), construction, and manufacturing, energy and mining. Sectors such as cybersecurity, robotics and gaming have been listed as emerging.

 

PLAYING CATCH-UP

 

But president of the Jamaica Employers Federation, David Wan, said filling these job vacancies will depend on how quickly academic institutions can adjust and create certification courses.

"Academia hasn't caught up with the real world yet, but thank goodness, for example, those small entrepreneurs who are themselves cybersecurity specialists who have had experience worked abroad and came back and are helping quite a few of the companies via consultations," said Wan.

He added that local employers are always being sensitised about employment trends and are always in ready-to-go mode.

"We spot trends when they are occurring in the workplace. We offer things like training courses to deal with the emerging trends. We talk to the employers and sensitise them so that they can get themselves ready.

"Specifically with new employment trends, we have seminars with our employers and at our annual conference. It's probably where we look down the road even further to engage our members to look at what is coming in terms of the jobs and the needs that we are going to have," said Wan.

 

We have the courses, but students are not opting to take them - UTech official

 

Senior Director of Planning and Development at the University of Technology (UTech) Denise Stephenson-Hammil is challenging claims that educational institutions are not preparing Jamaicans for emerging jobs.

According to Stephenson-Hammil, the institutions are well aware of what the job market needs, especially in the areas of science, technology and engineering. However, they are unable to administer courses if there is nobody to take them.

"I think there needs to be a partnership with the schools. I'm not sure to what extent the schools are privy to enough market data to prepare the young people so that they don't graduate and continue to apply for the traditional jobs.

"They need to be prepared or know what the opportunities are going to be, and when the courses are on offer, they need to take them up," Stephenson-Hammil told The Gleaner.

She said UTech has always prided itself on being properly aligned to the market needs and makes every effort to remain current.

"Once we are aware of the emerging markets, we move into course-development mode, but then, you have to have the take-up. That's where I think the partnership will need to come in with the school and career counselling and with the parents.

"We need to have the young people's mindset geared towards these new opportunities. Aware-ness is key," said Stephenson-Hammil.

Business Management Consultant Leahcim Semaj gave qualified endorsement to Stephenson-Hamilton's position.

"There are very few people who are seriously branching out and saying, 'Look, let me qualify myself for the future, let me take a risk, let me jump out ahead of the curve,' so that creates a problem. There are people who are seeing proper jobs as what jobs used to be, but those days are done," said Semaj.

But he argued that educational institutions need to do more in educating students on what jobs they need to be preparing for.

"Students leaving high schools are not being given proper guidance. Many of the people who should be guiding them - the guidance counsellors and so on - don't have a clue, and that's why you hear people talking about work as it use to be.

"Half of the jobs that we are comfortable with now will not be here 10 years from now. So the question is, are you positioning yourself for those jobs?" said Semaj.

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com