THE EDITOR, Sir:
As the world slowly emerges from the current downturn, the ability of countries to increase the skills of its workforce is a significant concern to both business and government.
The need to increase employment opportunities and to enhance the workforce's social mobility through improved employability is particularly pressing in countries such as ours, where completing secondary education, followed by university, does not necessarily lead to employment.
There has been a rapid increase in youth unemployment - which is nearly triple the national average.
Jamaica, however, has an excellent technical and vocational education and training (TVET) model that we now need to seriously leverage in order to increase incomes, help reduce spiralling poverty, and to serve as a catalyst for more robust social mobility. Any system that improves employability and social mobility will stimulate trade and commerce, and steadily reduce poverty and improve both personal and national income levels.
It is vital to our success to invest in our people and, by extension, our secondary/high schools by strategically using our TVET system to create goods and services which are in demand, both locally and internationally, while working with local industry and social partners to develop the competitive advantage.
Already, we have identified what the new and emerging areas are (e.g., creative industries, health and sports tourism), so our schools and training providers need now to work with industry and social partners to make the necessary change a reality.
Jamaica needs a well-trained workforce, and certified to international standards. But the training must begin early, so that students can develop the necessary skill to enable them to effectively transition from school to work.
POSITIONING FOR GROWTH
We need to align curriculum and skills training at the secondary/high-school level with the demands and needs of the labour market. Students must have the educational foundation which enables them to take advantage of the offerings of the formal TVET system.
A country will inevitably attract business partners and foreign investment and encourage economic growth because of its well-trained workforce. We have a gold mine in our existing training model.
If we can extend the model to secondary/high schools, making what we do more relevant, improving the quality of delivery and standardising our approach across the education and training system, we will reap the benefit economically and socially, sooner than later.