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Employers Want Greater Focus on Technical/Vocation Training

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Employers have indicated a need for changes in Jamaica’s education curriculum, with greater focus on technical training, to better prepare persons for the job market.

This disclosure was made by Director of Economic and Social Research in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Shaine Palmer, during a recent labour market forum hosted at the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) New Kingston offices, where the 2012 Labour Market Study, titled – ‘A Guide to Employment Opportunities in Jamaica’, was unveiled.

Mr. Palmer said approximately 30 per cent of the 606 employers/human resource managers participating in the survey indicated a need to boost the technical/vocational skills training component of the curricula.

“Because they (employers) are saying that (some) persons…coming into the world of work…just have a theoretical knowledge (of their area of interest)… they don’t have the practical …they (are not able to adequately) translate the knowledge they have attained into doing the actual work,” the Director stated.

Mr. Palmer said another 29 per cent of the employers interviewed indicated a need for the introduction of a work experience/internship component into the curriculum.

This, he pointed out, as employers have said that persons are “coming into the world of work without the right attitude.”

“This is something that we (Ministry) are also exploring more in our qualitative study that should be ready around June 2014,” he indicated.

The Director advised that 26 per cent of the interviewees highlighted the need for the curriculum to be restructured to facilitate inculcation of a positive work culture, while the remaining 15 per cent underscored the need for the introduction of soft skills, such as customer service.

Against this background, Mr. Palmer underscored the importance of current employees and prospective job applicants displaying the correct attitude in executing their duties, and when seeking employment to safeguard their tenure, and secure and maintain jobs.

“It is important to display professionalism at all times. Whenever we interview employers, one of the problems that they highlight is that customer service skills are lacking. They also complain that (employees) lack professionalism (for example when answering the) phone. Employers immediately get turned off (by) things like that; so, it is important… to display professionalism,” he added.

Mr. Palmer said field work for the survey commenced in December 2011 and continued and concluded in 2012. Mr. Palmer said the exercise targeted some 1,200 employers/human resource managers island-wide. These included 300 from Kingston and St. Andrew; 100 from St. James; 100 from St. Catherine; and 70 from all other parishes.

From this, he said, 606 persons, representing 51 per cent of the sample frame secured from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) database responded and participated in the exercise.

The forum, which was held under the theme: ‘Reshaping the Jamaican Labour Market to Foster Economic Growth and Development,’ was jointly held by the PIOJ and the Labour Market Information Technical Advisory Committee (LMITAC), in collaboration with the Labour and Social Security Ministry, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

By Douglas McIntosh

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