Skills training in the Caribbean – an eye on the future

© UNESCO/ASPnet- Colegio " Santa Rosa De Lima ", Santo Domingo

“Boring”, “limited”, “academic-focused” and “ultra-traditional” – many Caribbean youth describe their education in these terms, according to Eye on the Future, the 2010 report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development.

Along with restricted access to education and inadequate capacity of schools and training institutions, lack of relevance is a major concern among youth, who find the education they are getting unresponsive to their talents, skills, interests and needs.

“Although net enrolment rates at both primary and secondary levels have steadily increased in most countries for the past ten years, for both sexes, dropout rates have also increased”, notes the report. 

An earlier study found that education systems in the Caribbean had failed to prepare young persons adequately for skilled jobs in the new global economy (UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2007). Despite up to 11 years of formal education, many school leavers had no diploma or marketable skills and were taking a long time to find employment, the study found. 

The combination of school dropout, high youth unemployment rates (up to 29% in some Caribbean countries) and limited opportunities for personal development is a potentially explosive one. Many leaders in the region believe that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has the potential to address this mismatch between education and human potential.

In order to address the critical challenges facing TVET, some 80 stakeholders from 22 Caribbean countries and territories will share ideas, proposals and good practice at a regional conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica from 7 to 9 March. The conference aims to promote TVET as a key pillar in economic development and to strengthen human capacity in the Caribbean. Organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, the event will move the TVET agenda forward in advance of the Third International TVET Congress on “Building Skills for Work and Life” (Shanghai, 14 to 16 May). 

A feature of the event is customized fast-track, hands-on skills training, with special focus on on-the-job instructor training and capacity-building strategies. Postgraduate students will present their TVET-related research, in addition to discussions, practical workshops and over fifty conference papers. Special focus will be given to possible collaborations between TVET institutions and industry leaders. 

The conference will build on its achievements of a workshop in Bridgetown, Barbados in September 2011 which addressed TVET policy development in the Caribbean region. 

The Caribbean Development Bank is sponsoring 17 countries including Haiti, UNESCO Kingston will sponsor the five others. Other sponsors of the Conference include The University of the West Indies, UNESCO/UNEVOC, HEART Trust/National Training Agency of  Jamaica; University Technology of Jamaica, and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  

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