Luncheon Address by Robert Gregory Executive Director, HEART Trust/NTA Annual JEF Conference, Jamaica Grande Hotel, Ocho Rios Friday, May 30, Portland Suites Preamble: Mr. Herbert Lewis, President of the Jamaica Employers Federation, Mrs. Grace Strachn, the regional director of the ILO, other distinguished members of the platform, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by expressing my appreciation, and that of the National Training Agency, to the Jamaica Employers Federation, for this important opportunity to share some thoughts with you during your annual conference. We certainly would like to thank the JEF for its support of the work of the HEART Trust/NTA, and for its recent rtecognition of the work of our certification and accreditation arm, the NCTVET. The theme around which, your deliberations are centred this year; “Destination World Class; Connecting People, Strategy & Performance”; lies at the “heart” (pun intended) of the frenzied activities of the Trust over the past 12 to 18 months to give shape and form to our new and emerging business model, so as to vastly expand access to world class training and certification to all working age Jamaicans. 2 The Context Indeed, our mission of preparing a world class Jamaican workforce should not be dismissed as slick public relations, rather, the position of the National Training Agency has been consistent, and as persistent, as the world in which we live today…a competitive and exacting world that takes no prisoners, which tells us that: “You’re either world class or no class!” So today, if we concur that our destination as a nation is to become a world class competitive player, then I am sure you will agree with me, that people must lie at the heart of any strategy for world class performance, growth and productivity. The core business of the HEART Trust/NTA is Training and Certification, and our work is fueled by a vision that sees “A Jamaican Workforce trained and certified to international standards, stimulating employment-creating investments, contributing to the improved productivity, competitiveness, and prosperity of individuals, enterprises and the nation.” Why a New Model? However, as it now stands, the National Training System has maximized its current capacity, catering to 33,000 persons on 3 average annually. We believe this to be inadequate to the needs and requirements of the Jamaican workforce, which numbers some 1.2 million persons. We are also seized by the fact that many of these 1.2 million are constrained by two factors: 1. Many of them lack qualifications and formal certification for skills learnt on the job and in life, for which they can be assessed and certified. 2. Many workers cannot afford to take time off to go back to school. (If one examines closely, the profile of the Jamaican workforce, one will see that it does not match the traditional perception that the workforce is low skill and low wage. In point of fact, the statistics show that upwards of 64% of the Jamaican workforce have had at least 9 years of schooling, the measure or indicator which the external multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, the IDB, the IMF, use to determine the educational level and potential of the workforce. The profile therefore, of our Jamaican workforce is not low-skill low wage. It is in fact, the profile of a workforce that can be trained to do sophisticated jobs and to attract investments we want for our country. Please permit me to also share with you, the experiences of our recent programme to certify our early childhood workers. The NCTVET a few years ago, developed standards for early childhood care and development, which were of such high quality, that they were adopted as the world standards by UNICEF, and are being used to develop training curricula the world over. We invited over 5,000 Jamaicans, many of them mature women, to be assessed against these standards. Of the 5,000, nearly 4,000 of these early childhood workers, who have long been marginalized by the mainstream education system as “lesser than”, were tested and found to be operating at world-class standards! They were formally awarded National Vocational Qualifications by the NCTVET, and in one fell swoop, we were able to lift the prestige and the professional esteem of this cadre of workers. They now, not only have world 4 class credentials, but standing in the professional community. Such is the power of assessment and certification of outcomes based learning. We have also been listening to you, the employers. We have taken note of your requests and recommendations as to how the HEART/NTA can be more useful to you. And chief among the many things you tell us that you want, are: 1. Find ways to intervene more directly into the workforce, through more customized training and on the job assessment and certification. 2. Make the trainees, graduates more job-ready, with a deeper focus on job-specific skill-sets, as opposed to a broader occupational focus. 3. Train and certify more, particularly members of the existing workforce. Fulfilling the Mandate Well, we have listened; and we have been piloting since January, a new Business Model that will over the next three years, boost access to the National Training System from 33,000 a year to 100,00 a year. And how will we do it, you ask? First and foremost, we will make the training system fully competency standards-based. Competency-based training is delivered on the local and global standards of competency set by practitioners from the various economic sectors of employment. 5 These standards are written in terms of the knowledge, skills and attitudes and learning outcomes required of all levels of workers to perform effectively on the job. This market-driven learning outcomes-based philosophy of education and training, of which I speak, is distinct from the traditional provider-driven system of education to which we are accustomed. The philosophical construct of our current system of education is also fundamentally elitist and exclusionary, and is not yet structured to effectively prepare the majority of our people to properly “matriculate” to work. We have all been participants and witnesses to a system that is all about matriculating from one level of education to the next…you know the drill, from the not-so-long ago Common Entrance, (now GSAT), to high school, then sitting CXC/GCE to get to University for an undergraduate degree, then to matriculate to the graduate degree level, and then if you wish, to the post-graduate level. 6 It’s all about matriculating through an elitist education framework that, after high school, only affects 15% of the student population. What then happens to the remaining 85% of those leaving the secondary system? They have to matriculate to work...and they do so, without the appropriate preparation and orientation for work. And if you think we have a problem with the output of the secondary system, consider the many tertiary graduates gilded to the letter, who are also at that level, ill-prepared to matriculate and add value to the workplace. This is caused by an artificial dichotomy created between academic and vocational. The situation is clearly dysfunctional and untenable in the 21st Century! “EDUCATION MAKES ONE TRAINABLE AND TRAINING MAKES ONE EMPLOYABLE” The philosophical distinctions between the traditional system and an outcomes-based system are clear, and I would argue that the latter is best suited for our Jamaican workforce as we seek to compete and prosper in a demanding global marketplace. And don’t get me wrong. We have some of the finest universities and colleges in Jamaica that are world renown. 7 However, what we seem to lack is the will to connect in more pragmatic and impactful ways, the goals of academia with the expectations and requirements of industry and the economy. And at the risk of being misinterpreted, we have no problem with the content of the education system; rather, what we suggest is a change of context and orientation of education in Jamaica. The focus of the HEART Trust/NTA’s new business model on workforce development is both timely and deliberate. Many countries that are prospering are adopting their own Workforce Development Systems that feature similar competency certification to our own National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica, NVQ-J, but with important differences as the ideas spread and become refined. One of the first countries to embrace competency certification was the U.K., to be followed by Scotland, and then the Australians and New Zealanders who refined things further and have really begun to implement a true workforce development and certification system. We have modeled our new TVET system off the Australian and New Zealand model. 8 Other countries are also implementing systems: Mexico, Mauritius, Malaysia, South Africa, and the United States with its industry- based certification system, and very soon, our CARICOM neighbours. So we have no choice if we want to move forward. But when all said is done, implementing this new business model is a paradigm shift for us and it is critical for the fulfillment of our present mandate as the National Training Agency. If we can get the workforce trained and certified to global standards then there is no question in my mind that we will attract high-end local and overseas job-creating investments, which will provide “decent work” and good wages for our people. The “Low Skill Cheap Labour” model of development is no longer viable for us. Ladies and gentlemen, any discussion on opening access to education and training tends to engender concerns about quality and standards. In fact, concerns about quality are as old in the production of goods and services, as in training activities, and it would be remiss of me not to explain how we intend to ensure a quality system in this new model. Central to the success of this new model is the work of the NCTVET, which is playing the key role of quality assurance 9 manager through a rigorous system of assessment and accreditation. This new system will ensure true harmonization among industry- derived standards, the development of training curricula and the assessment of learning outcomes for certification. I should add that in the competency-based approach, the emphasis is not on training people to pass exams. Rather, the stress is on learning outcomes and competence, preparing people for their whole work in life, incorporating abilities for communication, participation, entrepreneurship, I.T., teamwork, negotiation and the exchange of ideas, best capsuled in two words, “employability skills”. The ILO describes the concept of quality in training as being built around the effectiveness of the serviceable abilities for their work and social life. Underpinning all of this, is a commitment to lifelong learning, of which there are four pillars according to the UNESCO Delors Report; and these are: “Learning to Learn”, “Learning to Do”, “Learning to Live with Others”, and “Learning to Be.” Quality is a complex and diverse concept that cannot be gauged or measured by traditional evaluation tests. 10 We believe that our new business model will strengthen our occupational standards development process, incorporating new occupations, e.g. green keepers, with the right blend of employability skills, so that when training and certification is complete, there is almost a perfect fit between the employee and the job requirements. In the model, we have zoomed in our focus on specific skills sets within each occupation. We have broken down all occupations into skill units, or competencies, and assess and certify each and every one, accumulating over time into a full occupational qualification. What this does, is that it allows us to assess at each module of the training and certify the assessed learning outcomes. This also allows workers to pursue their studies part-time, at their own pace, and to build their full occupational qualifications over time. In two words, the training system is becoming more “flexible and accessible” to an entire cadre of workers, who would have found it virtually impossible to access training, re-training, upgrading and certification. The new business model will: 11 Strengthen industry training lead groups to improve standards developed for training. These standards will help you to focus HRD programmes on required skills and ensure that your workers have the required skills for specific jobs. The standards can also be used a basis for job description, allowing you to tie compensation with skills. Firms can also become accredited training and assessment providers. You can use the NCTVET standards to train your staff, and have them assessed and certified against those standards. As everyone in this room knows, investors are now searching the global pool of employees for their operations and selecting the best regardless of nationality. This is what is forefront in our mind in developing a new TVET business model – putting Jamaicans in the pool of the best, knowledge-based workers in the world. It is you – the employers of Jamaica who through your 3% tax contributions, fund the HEART Trust/NTA and this is why the focus of the new TVET is geared to satisfy the needs of industry. Actually, we are doing exactly what you have told us that you need. 12 So what are we hoping to achieve? We want to achieve a real transformation of the Jamaican workforce to take advantage of the opportunities that are already here and those on the horizon. We are committed to implementing this new business model to substantially increase access to training and certification, changing over time, the quality and profile of the Jamaican workforce…“A Jamaican Workforce trained and certified to international standards, stimulating employment-creating investments, contributing to the improved productivity, competitiveness, and prosperity of individuals, enterprises and the nation.” I commend this vision and our business model to you, and I look forward to your whole-hearted support. Thank You.