UWI Vice-Chancellor Beckles says skills training and education programmes can bridge skills gap in the Caribbean
The Caribbean region has a skills gap crisis that must be addressed to lay the foundation for economic and social growth, said University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.
But he noted that training and development programmes can combat the “crisis of social capital formation” that he asserted exists “at the intersection of economic growth and social growth”.
“We have a crisis in social capital formation,” said the UWI official during the Caribbean Future Summit 2021. “The level at which we are producing skills and the commensurate consciousness to associate with those skills, we’re not producing enough of it and we also need to enhance the quality of it.
“This is the fundamental truth — that we don’t necessarily have a crisis of capital shortage in the Caribbean world; we have a crisis of social skills, entrepreneurial skills, economic and financial skills — the modern skills that are required to make an economic sector competitive in the global world at this moment.”
Beckles added: “When we do this analysis, we’re finding that we do have a shortage of skills, and these skills in turn might be responsible for the inability to mobilize the liquidity within our financial system to put that liquidity to work in production, in manufacturing, in services…
“We do know that we just don’t have enough of the people within our labour force from the professional management, the artisan working in the small shops and producing skills to generate value. We have a concern.”
He highlighted an observation made last year that only 17 percent of the Jamaican labour force was certified, but estimated that the “chronically low” figure is “probably a Caribbean average” that must be addressed.
A revolution in skills training
However, Beckles made the case that education and training programmes can help remedy the Caribbean skills gap dilemma.
“Every model of economic development that we have looked at has shown that a country’s potential for economic transformation is an expression of the percentage of its citizens who are exposed to professional training, skills development [and] academic training in order to drive productivity and innovation,” he said.
“So, what we need is a revolution in research and development, social capital formation, access to skills, skills training, professional training, academic training; we need a revolution in the Caribbean.
“That and only that can lay the foundation for simultaneous economic growth and social growth.”