Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller has challenged the community colleges of Jamaica to lead an education revolution in the country by implementing new modes of thinking.
Addressing the opening session of the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ) Conference 2013 at Sunset Jamaica Grande on Wednesday, Simpson Miller suggested ways in which community colleges can adapt for sustainability heading into the 21st century.
She urged college administrators to learn from the experiences of community colleges worldwide and to create new and expand existing relationships with the business community.
"The domestic and international environment is always imposing new technical, production and other challenges that require a skilled, educated workforce. Jamaica is no exception, we have to be prepared, and the role of the community colleges is critical to the development of our country and the advancement of education," Simpson Miller pointed out.
She spoke of a new skill set, which she indicated is necessary moving forward.
According to the prime minister, the role of tomorrow's community college in society will demand that its leaders, teachers, policy advisers, administrators and others develop the new skill set needed to facilitate better collaborative and consultative work that will bring colleges and the community at large into a unified system.
Community college leaders, she suggested, will need to broaden and deepen technical capacity, not merely to teach, but also to analyse research findings, build social trust, as well as new skills of caring, courage and reflection.
She challenged the colleges to begin offering adult training that takes work experience into consideration and to tailor their programmes based on the outcome of labour market trends, growth industries and global demands for specific skill sets.
"If we are serious about creating professionals with standardised skill sets in the cultural and creative industries for the region and the world, we have to begin to establish those programmes in community colleges as well, and I'm proud that some of you have started and I hope you will expand in all the areas."
AREAS for training
Simpson Miller suggested that programmes be developed to train in areas such as sound engineering, lighting design, set design and construction, graphic design, fashion design, production management, make-up artistry and other emerging areas. "We have to broaden our offering, and all of that rests squarely on the shoulders of the community colleges," she said.
The three-day conference is being held under the theme 'Shaping the Future: Changing Roles for Community Colleges'.
At the opening session, the CCCJ also paid tribute to 14 retirees, and handed out special awards to four persons, including Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, former education minister and principal of Brown's Town Community College, and former ambassador to London.