SOUTH REWARD–Representatives of vocational education institutions from several islands gathered at Milton Peters College (MPC) in St. Maarten on Thursday to discuss the development of trade schools in the region and to share ideas on best practices, amongst other things.
MPC and Sundial School General Director Wim de Visser told attendees at the opening that while there is a high preference for academic learning almost worldwide, some tend to forget that society also needs good workmen who can do an excellent job in serving a good trade. “Moreover, countries, societies need good workers to build houses, to maintain cars, aircrafts, to care for the elderly and the very young ones, someone that can do the gardening and clean the house. There is a high demand for skilled tradesmen,” he told participants.
“The refrigeration technician with a waiting list of hotels who want his services is just as profitable as the lawyer hunting for jobs or clients. Without these vocational workers, the highly academically educated rest of the population would not even be able to work and perform in their jobs. That’s why we need to focus more on our vocational education.”
He said the focus should be more on the practical aspects of learning a good trade than on the mostly academic content nowadays in the Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education (PSVE) programmes. “In the Netherlands, but also elsewhere in the world, there is a tendency to return to the old-fashioned trade school idea like LTS. In Dutch this initiative is called ‘vakcollege.’”
Representatives from different secondary schools in Curaçao, St. Maarten and Aruba met in 2015 for a one day conference concerning the idea of a “vakcollege,” he added. “We noticed that in all three countries there is a need for more practically-inclined education at the PSVE level. So the idea came across to work on that and to share our experiences at a later stage,” he said.
MPC and Sundial School decided to start with a small scale pilot project named the Trade School Project, which gives students in secondary education who might drop out due to academic reasons a chance to learn the basics of a good trade in combination with some theoretical content related to the job for which they are being prepared. These students can continue their tertiary education at the SBO level 1 or 2.
“We are simply trying to avoid having students drop out from the PSVE level, especially the more vulnerable practical vocational students who have fewer opportunities in society, especially once they leave school without a diploma or certificate. We should place more focus and care on them in order to see them serve our national developments and ambitions,” he said.
Thursday’s conference was all about having a dialogue concerning this topic, he said. “We would like to see representatives exchange all their great ideas and developments that take place in their respective countries. Together we have wonderful knowledge and experiences.”
In remarks at the opening ceremony Transition Manager in Saba and St. Eustatius Angela Dekker said that while trade schools were nothing new, the idea of the conference was to review what had been done so far, put it into perspective, determine whether what is being done was what was supposed to be done and determine whether it could be done better. She said the conference provided a forum for countries to connect and learn from each other.
St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) representatives Garth Steyn and Lorraine Talmi delivered the keynote addresses at the conference and Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) representative Hamilton Jemmott delivered a presentation about CVQ and trade school opportunities for Caribbean students. Also speaking at the event were Sundial Principal Mireille Regales and MPC Coordinator Richard Garrin about pilot trade schools at MPC and Sundial.
The conference was themed, “The Importance of learning a trade to serve national development” and it was coordinated by MPC and its sister institution Sundial School. Attending were representatives of vocational educational institutions in Aruba,
Curaçao, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius, the Netherlands and host country St. Maarten.