NASSAU, The Bahamas – Help is being offered to public school students throughout The Bahamas who have been impacted by COVID-19. The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) through the Ministry of Education and Technical & Vocational Training launched the ‘Smart Start’ programme (#don’tcountusout) July 18, 2022 at the Ministry of Education and Technical & Vocational Training.
The Workforce Readiness Certificate Programme has been rolled out in Grand Bahama and will also be offered in several Family Islands beginning this summer and fall.
Trades offered include: natural hair, nail technology, barbering, carpentry, drywall, masonry, painting, plumbing, tiling, auto mechanics, construction and fashion trades (basic garment making) diesel, engine, braking, electrical and electronic systems. The Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education and Technical & Vocational Training, expressed that in what may seem as a “dark” moment in terms of learning loss and challenges among young people, this initiative is an opportunity “for us to really focus, execute and take our young people and education to levels it has never seen before. In the midst of this hardship or difficulty we believe there is incredible promise and that’s how we are approaching it.”
She acknowledged BTVI and its board for stepping up at such a “sensitive” and “critical” time in this country.
Moreover, she explained that since 2020, prolonged virtual education has proven challenging for many people.
“As a result of this paradigm we have found that many, many thousands of children at varying age levels primary school, junior high, senior high have either completely not appeared in school or have been significantly absent. All of the research is showing (and we will be doing our own research testing in October) as a result of this phenomenon globally there is something called learning loss and it is showing in our region, it is critical.
“This programme targets students in grades 10, 11, 12. It is targeting those people and letting them tell the world “Don’t Count Us Out.” Despite the challenge we have faced, we’re going to get back on track. This programme, which is technical and vocational, and a whole array of skills that are going to be offered, allows young people to be able to develop skills if they’re not going back to high school to allow them to realign their lives and get back on track,” said Minister Hanna-Martin.
She underscored that this issue requires “all hands on deck” because the country cannot afford to lose thousands of young people. “We have to ensure that we are appropriately attuned to the problem and we are putting methods and strategies in place to help our young people to make sense of their realities as a result of what they have gone through. We are very excited about this programme. We’ve envisioned it; it’s happening, it’s free, it’s in the summer, it’s for young people – men, women. It’s a paradigm of offerings.”
Dr. Linda Davis, interim president, BTVI, described the programme as a “game changer”.
“We’re not going to count these students out. These students are citizens of this country; these students are brilliant and talented individuals, and through BTVI we want to provide them with an opportunity to earn a trade and simultaneously to learn a living in a very viable sector of the country,” she said.
“These are trades that are in high demand. No matter where you go, indeed the world, these are trades which we need in order for this country to function. We’re talking about trades that include construction, beauty, fashion and automotive mechanics in the first instance. These programmes which we have designed will give these students technician entry level certificates and skills to get them into the work place in the first instance. But they will not stop there. We want to encourage them to come back to BTVI and build on that foundation. It is going to be grounded in very fundamental literacy and numeracy skills – not the traditional approach; it is going to be the language and the numeracy of the respective trade.
“We’re going to have the students serve in a kind of apprentice arrangement where they work with a master technician to learn that skill and to fuel the passion. We know they have passion in many different sectors related to the trades. They may have dropped out for any number of reasons but we believe that if they have a passion in an area that is equally as good as any other academic area, or any other which we call academic, we ought to fuel that fire and find a way for the students to learn that skill, get the foundation to allow them to succeed, and meanwhile help this country fill some skills gaps that are desperately needed.
“From the point of the application, entry into the programme, and basic instructional materials, books, etc. We may want them to invest in a toolkit but we will have all of the other necessities on the instructional sites.”
A special invitation is extended to educators.
Said Dr. Davis, “As long as persons are prepared to work with us we do have a compensation package that we will be advancing. We want that educator who has time, energy, passion to connect with that child who needs just a little bit more. These children don’t want the usual, they’ve had the usual and get turned off by the usual. We need to be creative, innovative and to assist them in connecting some dots in a very instructive way. If there are some who have some extra time, are retired, and want to come back to assist we’re looking for that kind of educator.”
Dr. Davis said BTVI is “excited” about the possibility and pleased to be a part of the initiative. The Hon. Zane Lightbourne, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Technical & Vocational Training; Lorraine Armbrister, permanent secretary; Dr. Marcellus Taylor, director; Sharon Poitier, deputy director and other senior officials were present for the event.