Focus: Vocational Education and Training
Training for the world of work should be an integral part of the education system.
FORMER Prime Minister Edward Seaga has urged the national skills training
agency - HEART Trust/NTA - to focus on training young men in marketable agricultural skills to give them an option making a living in their rural communities. SEAGA. don't go upscale too much that you forget the bottom Seaga, who conceptualised and founded
HEART, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, said agriculture needs to be presented to young men as an attractive career option. He recalled that the Ebony Park HEART Academy in Clarendon was established to teach young people about the technology
of farming such as grafting and the use of fertilisers. He said, too, that the growing of strawberries and mushrooms were introduced at Cobbla and Chestervale youth camps, and that the projects were so successful that the crops were being sold in supermarkets
and to hotels. "We want to encourage boys to do those things because they are small, inexpensive operations to set up," Seaga said of the projects. "I'm convinced that you will not get them (young men) to go back to the land if you tell them to plant
the yam and cocoa their fathers did, because they see that their fathers did not get too far, and they have more ambition," Seaga said on Thursday. He was speaking at a function in Kingston in recognition of employers for 15 to 25 years of contribution
to the HEART Trust/NTA. Seaga, who is currently a distinguished fellow of the University of the West Indies also underscored the importance of young people getting into farming. "The average age of the farmer today is 65, so it's not going to be
too long before we will have no farmers," he said. Seaga recalled that although he conceptualised the training agency in 1974 while he was in opposition, it was ignored by the government of the day. HEART was established in 1982 when he was prime minister.
"I had in mind those same youngsters who had nowhere going. I wanted an institution that would provide them with a second chance...it's often when you leave school that you realise what school can do for you," he said. The former prime minister
congratulated the directors, managers and instructors for expanding the HEART Trust/NTA beyond the boundaries of what he had conceptualised. But he warned them not to forget HEART's original mandate of rescuing those youngsters who had been unsuccessful in
passing external examinations. "You are on the right track in taking the training to a higher level...in meeting the standard criteria for a globalised world. But don't go upscale too much that you forget the bottom, because there are too many young
people down there depending on you to give them your best for their programme of training," said Seaga. Executive director of the HEART Trust/NTA, Donald Foster, said the institution had expanded greatly over the years, from enrolling 59 students at
its inception, to a target of 107,000 learners in all programmes in 2007-08. __________________ •Don't let negative things break you, instead let it be your strength, your reason for growth. Life is for living and I won't spend my life feeling
cheated and downtrodd
Vocational education and training on the rise
In Article 26, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 stipulates that everyone has the right to education. Elementary and fundamental education must
be provided free of charge and primary education shall also be compulsory. It also requires that vocational education and training has been generally made available.
Education is not just a universal human right; it is also a fundamental development
goal. As an essential factor for poverty reduction and sustainable development, it contributes to the social, economic, political and cultural development of individuals and society as a whole. Well-trained people meet the needs for skilled labour and are
prepared for the requirements of an increasingly globalised economy.
Vocational education and training (VET) in particular aims at creating opportunities for pro-ductive employment and providing access to adequately paid work, which enable people to
lead a self-determined life. It also helps to implement the right to work.
1 Education is also seen by most as a major catalyst. A focussed and coherent vocational education and train-ing policy can make a significant contribution to gender equity
and job creation as well as to health and environmental improvements.
Since the end of the 80s, promoting VET was given low attention in international develop-ment cooperation. Among other things, its relatively lower
priority is attributed to the con-centration of the donor community on primary school education. As a consequence of the conception and implementation of the six goals in the action programme, Education for All
2, and the resultant two educational Millennium
Development Goals3 the secondary and ter-tiary education sectors have been neglected.
For some years now, however, there has been renewed interest in secondary and tertiary education. This demand results from the outcomes of primary education,
which has placed heavier pressure on secondary educational systems, because a growing number of primary school-leavers are entering the labour market directly or need further training. The steady growth of the informal sector (e.g. in Africa) is also coming
to the attention of international education-policy debate. In some countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, about 70 per cent of non-farm employees are engaged in the informal sector.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates their number worldwide
at about 1.53 billion.
4 Improving their qualifica-tion would in any case contribute to private-sector development in developing countries. International consensus has therefore
been reached again on the need to substantially improve the supply of edu-cation at secondary school level. The concern here is not only with general secondary education, but increasingly with vocational education and training in both the formal and non-formal
context as well as various forms of skills development.
There is a need for training courses that cater for the increasingly dynamic world of work (technologi-cal change, more diverse market requirements, needs of the informal sector). "Skills
development" entails imparting qualifications and competencies to enable trainees to (quickly) gain and continuous-ly upgrade employable skills. In development cooperation, "skills development" are frequently used in non-formal education and besides VET measures
also comprise basic education skills, such as read-ing, writing and arithmetic.
Keener interest in post-primary education can also be attributed to UNESCO
5, which sees
VET as crucial for achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals: Particularly in the long term, it is VET institutions in industrialised and developing countries that impart to young people the abilities needed for their attainment. A country needs people
who can co-shape and support its general development with their professional qualifications.