GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Caribbean Community CARICOM Vocational Qualifications (CVQs) assessors, verifiers and instructors now have access to online training to enhance their capacity to ensure that artisans attain the occupational standards required for work within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
On Wednesday, April 20, the Caribbean Association of National Training Authorities (CANTA) launched a CARICOM Vocational Qualifications Online Training Programme, enabling the continuity of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) professional development at a distance.
Described as a watershed moment in CANTA’s existence, it is the result of collaboration involving the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the National Training Authorities (NTAs) of Grenada, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the CARICOM Secretariat.
Programme Manager for Human Resource Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Laurette Bristol chaired the launch event. She lauded the contribution of Immediate Past President of CANTA, Pauline Whiteman, for advancing the landmark development for CANTA, the apex body for TVET development in the region.
She said Whiteman “served strategically in getting us to this moment of action, focusing on visibility, sustainability and the impact of CANTA as a regional institution.”
Current Chair of CANTA, Henderson Eastmond noted that the launch of the Online CVQs Training Programme represents “an important milestone in the work of CANTA.”
Explaining its importance, he said it would strengthen the work of NTAs that do not have enough resources to conduct face-to-face training, and build Member States’ capacity to implement CVQs.
It is an example of regional cooperation, he said, commending the course developers drawn from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Grenada NTAs. He said training with the Online Programme begins in May.
Chair of CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development COHSOD, Jeffery Lloyd, Minister of Education of the Bahamas, congratulated CANTA for “having the insight to provide courses that will provide valuable certification.”
He said the initiative fulfils one of the goals of COHSOD to promote the development of education through efficient organisation of elementary, advanced, vocational training and technical education and training facilities in the Community.
With the pandemic limiting face-to-face education, he underscored that virtual training is critical. Like the rest of the Community, he said the Bahamas has also faced brick and mortar closure of schools and has had to resort to online training. However, he noted, even before the pandemic, the government of the Bahamas committed to the full digitisation of all public schools. Efforts advanced towards that goal with the distribution of tablets and enhancement of Internet connectivity to public and private schools, Minister Jeffery informed.
Lauding the programme, he said it was developed with the recognition that “steps must be taken to create opportunities for citizens to earn a living, to maintain a decent level of financial stability, to enhance a positive identity and to ensure greater level of self-worth.”
Courses such as this “provide a critical route to assist with setting a pathway for citizens to engage in lifelong learning and continuous acquisition of life skills,” he said.
He commended the organising team for the provision of the free Online CVQ Training Programme and lauded the CDB for its support.
“It is imperative for the Region to provide initiatives which will assist school leavers to secure a stable future,” Lloyd stated, noting that CARICOM is committed to retraining and retooling citizens to enter the job market or consider entrepreneurial options.
Keynote speaker at the launch, President of COL, Dr. Asha Kanwar said the initiative offers practical skills online, blending training at a distance with mentored practice in workplace settings.
She highlighted the importance of assessors, verifiers and instructors in implementation of the CSME, noting that a key element within the Single Market is the need for qualifications that enable skilled workers to move and work freely.
“NTAs have a crucial role in certifying workers to agreed standards. They in turn rely on trained assessors, verifiers and instructors to assure quality and consistency across the Region,” she stated.
For TVET, Dr. Kanwar added, the question has always been how to conduct practical training online, when assessment, verification and instruction require “real people showing real skills.” However, NTAs have had to adapt to the use of technology for a number of reasons including the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Dr. Kanwar informed that because of the use of technology, Grenada’s NTA is able to train assessors in Antigua and Barbuda virtually, without the need to travel. She too acknowledged the contributions of NTAs of Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago, which worked with COL to design and develop the digital resource, as well as to pilot and consolidate the programme now available to assessors, verifiers and instructors.
Several cohorts of assessors have already been trained using the programme during its pilot phase.
“It is time to go for clicks rather that bricks,” Dr. Kanwar said, underlining the importance of integrating technology for the sustainability in education.
She shared about the success of COL’s workforce recovery programme, using COURSERA, which offers 3,800 courses from 200 top universities in the world, including Ivy League universities in the Unites States. The universities provide licences for COL to offer the courses in the Commonwealth, and she indicated that 67,585 persons have participated from Caribbean. Of those participants, most of the students came from Barbados, Guyana, Grenada and St. Lucia.
Professor Kanwar said she was pleased to learn that the high uptake from those CARICOM countries was due to high Internet connectivity. Against this backdrop, she told Minister Lloyd it is heartening to hear about his government’s effort to strengthen digital infrastructure to facilitate distance education.
“COL is really delighted to be working with you to support a new normal for assessor, verifier and instructor training. COL hopes it will in turn inspire new models of blended skills development across the region for skill and sustainability,” she stated.
Operations Officer for Education at the CDB, Dr. Martin Baptiste also spoke at the launch and expressed the Bank’s financial support to the roll-out of the programme.
Describing it as timely, he said Borrowing Member Countries have invested heavily in TVET to mainstream CVQs in the education sector.
“Training of assessors, verifiers and instructors is fundamental not only to the viability of delivering CVQs, but to ensure that there is adequate human resource capacity to deliver the programmes in secondary schools, TVET institutions and in projects as they are implemented,” he stated.
He said the CDB has financed training cohorts in Belize, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Guyana, and noted the bank is “delighted” that the programme is now virtual.
He said CDB is willing to work with CANTA and COL to expand the programme to as many persons as possible, including its translation into French so that TVET professionals in Haiti can benefit.
The launch event featured an unveiling of the digital platform by Francis Ruffin of the Grenada NTA.
CANTA is an association of National Training Authorities and other TVET apex bodies in CARICOM states established in November 2003.
Launched in October 2007, the CVQs facilitate the movement of artisans and other skilled persons in the CSME. Candidates are expected to demonstrate competence in attaining occupational standards developed by practitioners, industry experts and employers.