Tuesday’s signing of the Skills Development and Employability Project is a demonstration of Guyana’s commitment to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as they work together to continue the country’s development, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan stated.
The US$14M project is scheduled to last from June 30, 2017 to December 31, 2021. The overall outcome of the project is to assist the Guyana Government to enhance access to, and improve the quality and effectiveness of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system.
Speaking on Guyana’s behalf at the event, in the Turks and Caicos which was attended by President of the CDB, Dr. Warren Smith, CDB Vice President Corporate Services Yvette Seale, CDB Vice President (a.g.), CDB Operations Monica LaBenett, CDB and Finance Ministry staffers, Minister Jordan reminded that Government came to office two years ago with a strategic vision of creating “a good life in a green economy.”
Central to the realisation of this vision, he explained, is the development of Guyana’s human resources. “Education remains the corner stone to economic development and is seen as “the golden ticket” to a better life. A highly educated and skilled workforce is necessary, though not sufficient, condition for the diversification of Guyana’s economy, and the harnessing of our vast natural and mineral resources in a way that supports sustained growth and improved living conditions.”
The Minister added that the performance of many students at the Caribbean Secondary Education Council Examinations implies, “that the majority of our secondary level cohort is not up to the standard required for tertiary level education.
He recalled that in an article, Dr. Errol Morrison, President of University of Technology Jamaica, posited “students emerging from secondary schools are weak…tertiary level educators will need to salvage a significant number of the failing secondary level cohort by assisting them to improve their performance, interesting them in the acquisition of skills pertinent to the needs of the country and so recruiting person-power to meet the needs of the workforce.”
He said it was not surprising that, this recommendation found similar resonance at the recently concluded Governor’s Meeting of the Islamic Development Bank, held under the theme, “Youth Economic Empowerment.”
Minister Jordan emphasised the Government’s focus on strengthening secondary and tertiary levels education by enhancing the schools’ curricula, especially in the areas of science and technology. This, he stated, involve the development of SMART classrooms through e-government systems; enhancing teacher competence via improved toolkits and supervision in the classroom; building state-of-the-art schooling facilities; and ensuring alignment of schooling standards to CVQ standards, and other regional and international standards.
“It is via these services,” Minister Jordan said, that Government hopes to equip all secondary and tertiary graduates with universal skills which would assist in reducing coastal/hinterland and ethnic income disparities, “by promoting inclusive growth through increased participation of the poor in the labour market. It is well known and a proven fact,” he added that allowing populations access to quality higher level education, can ensure poverty reduction.
The Government recognises the important role of tertiary education as a key generator of development and economic growth and, in so doing, he noted, is instituting innovative academic pursuits to address the needs and challenges of the new diversified economy- not least of which is the emerging oil and gas sector.
The Finance Minister stressed the 2017 National Budget’s focus on education, with $43.1 billion out of $250 billion devoted to the sector. Of this allotted sum, he pointed out that $50 million has been set aside for the establishment of a Youth Innovation Fund, “in which we hope to nurture, excite and release the potential and creative energies of both in-school and out-of-school youth in the STEM areas.”
Minister Jordan expressed his pleasure that a second generation life skills development programme that builds on the successes of the earlier Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) Programme is underway. This new programme, he said, “will continue to address national educational level challenges and labour market demands of a dynamic growing economy. It is also envisaged that this US$11.5 million programme will breathe new life into the entrepreneurial spirit of the country, as yet another means of tackling youth unemployment and under-employment.”
The Minister re-affirmed the Government of Guyana’s commitment to the CDB, and thanked the institution, “for the extensive work done in preparing and finalising the agreements for this Skills Development and Employability Project. He also praised his Ministry’s staff and those of the Education Ministry, “for their involvement and continuous engagement in the realisation of this project.”