The Hon. D. Shane Gibson, M.P., J.P.
Minister of Labour & National Insurance
on the Bill establishing the National Training Agency
at the House of Assembly
on Wednesday, 26th June, 2013 @ 10am
Every morning when I rise to come to this Honourable House, after giving the Almighty Thanks and Praise for letting me see this day, I turn to express my deepest appreciation to the magnificent people of Golden Gates whom I am pleased to represent in this august place.
I hope people, in general, and those very impressionable persons, in particular, don’t follow the terrible example displayed by Long Island. But instead, to follow the sterling example shown by Fort Charlotte as he exercised considerable restraint and the discipline expected on a member of this Honourable House. Our conduct and how we relate to each in this Honourable House must be a sterling example for our citizenry but, more especially, for our youth to follow.
What Long Island did was disgraceful and despicable. And what was extremely disturbing and alarming, is that every one of her parliamentary colleagues supported her actions 100%. Can you imagine, those who say that they are the alternative to the present Government, encouraging violence, in the halls if parliament. We are the leaders and law makers.
Last week when I addressed this Honourable House during my contribution to the 2013/2014 Budget, which was a Progressive Liberal Party Budget, designed to securing our future because it reflected the values and policy thrust articulated in our 2012 Charter for Governance, at that time I advised this honorable place, that the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance would launch the National Training Agency on Friday, 28th June 2013.
However, the date of the official opening of the administrative offices of the NTA has been rescheduled to Monday, 15th July, 2013 at the site of the NTA, which will be located on the corner of Munnings and Gladstone Road. The NTA will be headed by Director, Agatha Marcelle, a consummate and dynamic go-getter fueled with the enthusiasm of preparing our work force for the 21st Century and beyond.
The National Training Agency will aggressively address many of the challenges of preparing young adults, in particular, those twenty-five years and under, for successful entry into the workforce.
The NTA is a competency based training and job placement system that is flexible and responsive to the actual requirements of the workplace through a network of suitable training institutions, organizations and programs involved in the process of supplying qualified and skilled labour for the country.
The Agency’s training system is designed to develop and improve employable skills and competencies; transform undesirable attitudes and behaviors toward work, reduce functional and numerical illiteracy, encourage and increase civic pride, lower the high levels of unemployment especially among youth and young adults and positively influence the reduction of crime.
The Government, in establishing the NTA, recognizes the importance of the Agency being stakeholder driven, given the fact that it must, by necessity, facilitate co-operation between employees and employers’ organizations, businesses, communities, training institutions and programs, trainees, Urban Renewal 2.0 and the government.
The NTA’s functions will include:
Providing leadership and structure for the development of industry standardized, competency based training.
Providing the organized framework for the delivery of industry based competency training.
Facilitating workforce readiness
Expanding the opportunity for increased job placement.
The successful administration of the NTA’s functions will make possible, the achievement of some critical national training objectives which include:
Increasing the capacity of individuals to participate in the workforce.
Promoting, identifying and developing industry standards of occupations and training programs.
Providing a national certification framework.
Increasing the number of persons pursuing technical & vocational education and training and the quality of training.
Providing professional counseling and career guidance.
Providing a central registration unit.
Providing referral and placement services.
Providing competency based statistical data and information to government and relevant agencies.
Developing a tracking and monitoring system.
Promoting and encouraging national awareness.
The NTA will be the catalyst that provides uniformity, standardization, accreditation, assessment and certification in the delivery of competency based training with a view of promoting and ensuring individual and workforce excellence. This will be attained by focusing exclusively on behavioral, attitudinal and modular competency based training within the established framework of industry competency standards and by supervising the facilitation of program articulation, certification and validation.
Timing is important, Mr. Speaker, so the NTA could not have come at a more fitting time in the economic growth and development of The Bahamas. Recently, we’ve heard and read about concerns from various sectors of our economy regarding the perceived challenges that employers’ will face in the near future because, it is believed, they will be unable to find Bahamians who are educated enough and skilled enough to fill jobs, even service jobs that will come on stream, beginning in Bimini next month, July; in Grand Bahama at the end of 2013; and in New Providence at the end of 2014.
Be assured, Mr. Speaker, that there is no need to panic and there will be no employment crisis. We have thousands of young adults who have completed formal schooling and even though all may not have achieved notable academic standing, there are many of them who can and will be prepared by the National Training Agency for the workforce. Indeed, after the launch of its pilot programs commencing the third (3rd) week of July 2013, this Agency is expected to graduate approximately 3,000 to 4,000 trainees annually, when fully established.
With annual graduations projected at this amount, the Agency will be in a strong position to produce Bahamians with the necessary practical competencies and skills to meet the current and future demands of Baha Mar which is projecting over 4,000 positions by December 2014; Bimini Resorts World, 500 positions (casino and resort) for 2013/14; Reef Resort 400 positions by November 2013; and Kerzner 300-400 recurring replacement jobs.
I am pleased to report, Mr. Speaker, that the NTA has already identified additional classroom space in the Department of Labour’s Employment Services Centre located on Robinson Road, capable of accommodating 30 trainees. Classroom space has also been identified in the National Insurance Board’s Complex in Freeport and efforts are underway to identify classroom space in government buildings in Abaco and Exuma.
In January, 2014, the NTA will add more programs to its curriculum such as domestic services, landscape maintenance, residential and commercial buildings, and allied healthcare services. These skills programs will be instructed by certified industry providers and all skills training will be certified by City and Guilds. Additionally, discussions are being held with the President of the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) to work a process and terms of referral to BTVI.
Further, Mr. Speaker, beginning in January, 2014, it is anticipated that the number of trainees will range between 2,000 and 2,500. The NTA will begin with entry levels 1 and 2, and persons at level 3 and above will be required to pay a fee. I should point out that levels 1 and 2 will comprise of trainees who are semi-skilled while level 3 and 4 will be skilled, and levels 5 to 7 will be supervisory management levels. The NTA will also establish a Vocational Institute for Professional and Convention Centre.
An individual does not need an academic degree to become an excellent server, golf maintenance or technical handyman. Neither does the individual need a degree to become an office clerk, kitchen steward, food preparation or landscape maintenance person. What we need are desirable attributes, competencies and skills.
We can all acknowledge and agree that there are some positions that require degrees and there are some where degrees are desirable. However the majority of work in a predominantly service economy do not require college/university degrees for service and support positions. To suggest that a resort or any other similar organization would be hard pressed to fill such jobs because Bahamians are not trainable and unemployable is very unreasonable and unfortunate.
The reputation of the Bahamas as a preferred tourist destination was built by the smiles, hands and hard work of ordinary Bahamian people, with the right service attitudes and work behaviors that are necessary for such a destination to remain competitive and successful.
By creating the Agency, Mr. Speaker, the government has made an unprecedented commitment to the development of the Bahamian people, especially the youth and young adults under the age of 25 whose categories reflect the highest rate of unemployment in the nation at 32%.
The training organized, coordinated and delivered by the NTA is different from traditional training which places emphasis on the learning processes. Competency-based training, places emphasis on “learning outcomes” and is comprised of modules of employable skills broken into “building blocks”. Learning outcomes are based on industry standards and learning progress is based on an individual ability and places emphasis on what a person can actually do.
The Agency and its work will bring about a paradigm shift in how Technical Vocational Education and Training is delivered. It will strengthen and develop relationships between employers and their organizations and training institutions, providers and trainees with the end result being a more productive and service oriented workforce.
The National Training Agency will create the opportunity for employers to become engaged in the development of our country’s human resources by partnering with the Agency in its job training schemes such as apprenticeship and internship programs and other on-the-job training programs.
The Agency’s training providers will also be industry-based businesses, organizations and programs that have been approved by the NTA accreditation committee comprised of relevant Industry professionals and the Agency’s quality control department. They will have the capacity to produce skills-based, modular training delivered by competent industry professionals.
Even though the NTA, Mr. Speaker, does not strictly model other training agencies in the region, it is designed to suit our current and future needs. It will accomplish the same goal of producing a competency-based, skilled workforce that is globally competitive as all training programs will meet national, regional and international industry standards.
This will be accomplished by the Agency fostering a beneficial partnership with City and Guilds, one of the leading vocational education providers globally, with two (2) million learners working towards over 500 qualifications annually worldwide. City and Guilds boasts over 10,000 centers of training and learning, spanning over 80 countries.
City and Guilds has supported the capacity building of national training agencies in a number of jurisdictions including Jamaica and The Bahamas with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. We welcome their knowledge and expertise in assisting The Bahamas workforce in becoming globally competitive via the avenue of certification that is globally recognized and accepted.
The NTA is intended to be a national symbol of excellence attesting to the fact that excellence exits outside of academia and can be produced in whatever is done, by anyone, at any level. If the Agency is to realize its goals, it must necessarily operate at very high standards and must demand the same from all of its participating stakeholders, in particular, its Board of Directors, employees, training providers and trainees.
The government providing access to competency-based skills training, free to trainees, is not an individual right. It is a privilege to be able to have a second chance to do with life what ought to have been done the first time via schooling, which is an obligation of the government and has always been provided free of charge through high school.
It is expected that trainees will see this as an opportunity for them to earn the right to a better quality of life and will assume the responsibility to do all they can to be successful. The Agency programs expect it and will demand it. Persons who register and become trainees will be held to high standards in terms of behavioral dynamics such as desirable attitudes and behaviors, showing discipline and being committed to successfully completing programs.
The government will not spend money on individuals who make little or no effort to improve themselves. This is an unprecedented undertaking by the government and only one with a heart of compassion and caring for the growth and development of the people of a nation can dig deep and find the will and the financial resources to invest in trying to stem the tidal wave of negative attitudes, complacency, mediocre customer service, lack of skills and high levels of unemployment, especially among youth and young adults.
Our nation sits on the brink of full economic recovery. The government and the Bahamian people must work hand-in-hand to ensure successful recovery. The National Training Agency will be networking with Urban Renewal 2.0, churches and civic organizations, the Department of Labour Employment Exchange and other relevant bodies to maximize the potential for bringing about positive change and lasting transformation for the less academic, more challenged youth and young adults in our nation.
As I close, allow me to reiterate that, the NTA will create the opportunity for employers to become engaged in the development of our country’s human resources by partnering with the Agency in its job training schemes, such as, apprenticeship and internship programs and other on-the-job training programs.
The NTA’s training providers will be industry based businesses, organizations and programs that have been approved by the agency’s quality control department and which have the capacity to deliver skills based, modular training delivered by competent industry professionals. Most of all, the NTA will be stakeholder driven.
So, I invite corporate Bahamas and all the citizens of Commonwealth of The Bahamas to join the government generally, and the NTA, in particular, in this exciting journey as we prepare our workforce for the 21st century and beyond.