Since its inception 106 years ago, the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) has cemented its name as Guyana’s leading source of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
BIT, which falls under the Ministry of Social Protection, has been making meaningful strides in the country by equipping persons countrywide with the necessary knowledge, skills and training relevant for employment.
It has also been widely communicated, that the acquisition of skills for work is crucial for economic and social development. Just recently, the institution celebrated 55 years of Apprenticeship training with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Training Centre in Port Mourant (GTC-PM) Berbice, with the addition of 57 skilled craftspersons to the GuySuCo cadre of employees.
The focus since the establishment of BIT has been the provision of formal TVET as it relates to apprenticeship within the industrial sector.
From the start, apprenticeship programmes had flourished, with major organisations utilizing this modus operandi to deliver skilled personnel for the growth of their industries.
To this day, there are some organisations which continue to see the value of TVET via apprenticeship. GuySuCo remains one of these key employers, along with Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL), Guyana National Industrial Company Incorporated (GNIC), Barama Company Limited, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Brass Aluminum and Cast Iron Foundry (BACIF), CARICOM Rice Mills, Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and BOSAI.
These organisations collectively have 339 persons currently engaged in apprenticeship training. At Port Mourant, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Education, Vincent Alexander, gave recognition to the GTC-PM for its stellar work throughout the years from 1957 to present.
Alexander noted that “I don’t think that enough recognition is given to institutions like this and the role which they play in the country’s growth and development. We are in the 50th year of the Jubilee; 50 years of independence. When we speak about independence, one of the critical things about independence is the establishment and maintenance of its technicians that can give meaning to a nation in its own right”. He added also that a nation is dependent on institutions that bring life, sustain and propel the nation into the future.
A Notion that must be eradicated
Alexander also noted that some people see TVET as a second chance, but the reality is that a country’s development is built essentially on these skills. This was reinforced by the Chairman of the Board of Industrial Training and Chairman of the Council for TVET, Clinton Williams.
Williams noted that in recent years, Guyana has been experiencing a widening gap between workplace occupational skills needs versus capacities and capabilities. He stated that “This mismatch has been largely influenced historically by the stigma attached to Technical and Vocational Education and Training, in that TVET was seen as the last resort, for academically weak students, hence the prevalence of low standards displayed by skills generated.”
This viewpoint has been challenged by several proponents of TVET at the National, Caribbean and International levels.
Meanwhile, Alexander stated that the roles that persons who have TVET play should not be underestimated, because they are fundamental to the Country’s development. He added also, that humanity is dependent on these skills for innovation and creation.
He stated that this needs to be re-emphasized because of the misrepresentation held by the public, and this misrepresentation has been crippling the growth and sustainability of TVET in Guyana.
Alexander also noted that TVET has been the fuel for addressing issues such as youth un-employment and other socio-economic inequalities, and there needs to be other agencies that take up the mantle of improving TVET systems and practices.
While there are other organisations like BIT willing to take the challenge of implementing TVET countrywide, there have been calls for more involvement and support from local private sector for TVET and the implementation of measures to retain skilled persons.
Meanwhile, BIT says that it intends to place renewed focus on the expansion of the range of private and public organizations that can provide TVET training, particularly for the new and emerging sectors with added emphasis and personal incentives for labour force retention and minimization of attribution.
The agency also added that it will be reaching out to all organisations to become involved in this national initiative to propel the programme ahead.
A few days ago, BIT graduated 206 trainees at Mahaicony via the narrow profile entry level occupational skill programme, the National Training Project for Youth Empowerment (NTPYE). It is expected that over 1,600 persons throughout the country will be graduated this year. These persons would have undertaken numerous skill sets ranging from Engineering and Building Trades, Information and Communication Technology and Forestry, to Home Economics and Health Services.
BIT has also been the pioneer of a Heavy Duty Equipment Operation Programme since 2009. This Programme has generated skills needed for the mining sector in many communities countrywide. Another focus of the agency will be the generation of employable skills for differently-abled groups, including deaf and visually impaired persons.