There are many “training” solutions that have been announced during the current retrenchment exercise. Some of these announcements seem to be “soothers” designed to comfort those who ask about the plight of those found without jobs or skills. There is a published account of a terminated worker, when told to sign up for training, said; “I don’t want training. I can’t buy bread with that”.
This is an example of why I am called to caution against falling into the “training trap”. This occurs when training is being applied for cosmetic or justification purposes. For instance, there are many funding agencies and private sector organizations that require a specific number of training hours be provided to a specific set of people, covering prescribed topics. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) “the world’s largest professional association dedicated to the training and development field”, has a motto saying: “Telling ain’t training”. This is important because the majority of events characterized as training, feature covering the information as the primary approach. This has been proven to be a waste of time, money and morale.
In the past few years, Barbados’ TVET Council has recognized this discrepancy and introduced its Competency-based Training approach in conjunction with Barbados Community College. This is primarily because of pressure to “prove that workers are competent to do their jobs”. Forty-eight National and Regional Vocational Qualification (NVQ/CVQ) have been validated, with curricula to “demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attitudes are certified as competent.” I hold a certificate in this programme.
Clearly, this is important work and represents progress from previous approaches. It reinforces the need for demonstrable skills and the fact that working toward standards increases employability. The Inter-American Bank has founded TVET’s “Skills for the Future” programme, which can be credited with producing 15 medallists in The Barbados WorldSkills 2014 competition. TVET and its programmes have the participation of Barbados’ colleges, BIMAP and supports the Barbados Human Resources Development Strategy.
TVET also administers the Training and Employment Fund (ETF). “ETF’s primary focus is to provide grants to encourage the private sector to expand and upgrade its employee training programmes.” This funds are extracted from employer contributions to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). I also have first-hand experience working with clients who have accessed ETF and have provided training under its terms of reference. The fund has trained 37,411 since March 1997.
With due respect for these efforts and accomplishments, there is still much needed to obtain traction and sustainability. The ASTD Competencies for Training and Development Professionals and its Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification, represent global best practice. Barbados can benefit greatly from using these as benchmarks.
For example, approved trainers for ETF programmes must be vetted by the Barbados Accreditation Council, who certainly aren’t equipped to measure according to global standards and best practice. When you look at the training approaches of government agencies, academic institutions and public purveyors of training; competency in these essential areas is not apparent. TVET’s own mandate is compromised by the fact that its criteria for employer participation preclude the training of an organization’s executives and managers to support the skills that have been taught. “You can’t take one piano lesson and play Carnegie Hall”.
If skills are not nurtured and supported, they will become extinct.