Picture this: teenagers who are eager to learn and excited to see the fruits of their labor. Young people with a greater sense of responsibility, purpose and independence. School-leavers equipped with the technical skills to successfully participate in a sector that is vital to national sustainability.
This is what’s happening at the Darryl Jordan Secondary School in northern Barbados, where students from ages 16 to 18 are benefiting from a major upgrade in the facilities used to prepare them for Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) in Amenities Horticulture and Crop Production, among other vocational courses.
CVQs are a relatively recent feature of the Barbadian educational system. In fact, Darryl Jordan Secondary School was one of the pilot schools when the regionally recognized qualification was first introduced around 2014. This competency-based approach to training, assessment and certification aims to produce a skilled worker who has demonstrated that they’ve attained the occupational standards developed by practitioners, industry experts and employers. But, what are CVQs? The Caribbean Vocational Qualifications are approved by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), thus enhancing skilled workers’ mobility within the region throughout 15 different countries and territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Monserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Find out how Barbados overcame private sector skepticism and reinvented its job-training system by creating the Skills for the Future Programme. https://t.co/I0I7vB7VCs— Inter-American Development Bank (@the_IDB) February 15, 2019
In more recent times, Barbados has turned its attention to raising the profile of vocational education on the island. In 2012, the Government of Barbados launched the IDB-financed Skills For the Future Program, focused on improving the quality of technical and vocational education and training. Among its various components, Skills for the Future provides a US$30,000 School Improvement Grant to eligible secondary schools to enhance the quality and relevance of their teaching. So far, twelve secondary schools have received grants, including the Darryl Jordan Secondary School. The school received the grant at the beginning of 2018 for its integrated agriculture project – covering traditional agriculture, hydroponics and aquaponics, and robotics – and promptly began bringing the project to life.
A visit to that rural educational institution reveals the transformation taking place on the campus. A newly constructed aquaponics system and a shade house to grow crop seedlings now complement the open plot already being used by agriculture students. These new facilities provide a less labor-intensive environment for students to be trained in modern agricultural practices. Eventually, robotics will be integrated to automate the irrigation systems being installed.
“It is great to see science in action and enthusiastic students who consider what they learn in school relevant,” says Sabine Aubourg, Education Lead Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank and the team leader for the Skills for the Future project. “The project shows that agriculture can be interesting to young people when science and technology are combined,” she added.
Why is agriculture so important to the Barbadian economy?
Cultivating an early love for agriculture in young people is important for the sustainability of the island. With a population of approximately 300,000 people, the island of 430 square kilometers is struggling to contain its burgeoning annual food import bill, which already exceeds US$250 million. In addition, there is a need to revitalize the aging and dwindling local farming community. Long-term, the school intends to offer some of the produce for sale to its canteen operators, staff and the neighboring community.
Principal of the school, Stephen Jackman, explains that the project seeks to build on the school’s track record for excellence in agriculture at the national level, having won several school competitions and awards. “Our aim is to become self-sustainable – that whatever produce we make is saleable and we use funds from that to keep buying materials as needed,” he declares.
Photo Gallery: Skills for the Future in Barbados
He adds that the project has created a pathway within the school setting for more students to prepare for CVQ assessment – something which has so far been done through participation in the Barbados Youth Farm Summer Programme hosted by the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture (IICA). “Having large-scale numbers certified at the same time wasn’t possible without some of the structures that we are putting in place,” says Principal Jackman. Previously, the school had only been able to send a maximum of two students to the IICA summer program, but with the upgraded facilities, they currently have 24 students preparing for the CVQ assessments internally.
“We thought we would be doing the students a disservice to keep our facilities in the state that they were before this grant,” says Timothy Kellman, teacher and project coordinator for the School Improvement Grant at Darryl Jordan High.
“Having facilities that are up to standard means our students will get the best training in the best facilities. It means there will be no disconnect between how we are training them here and what happens in the world of work.”
To learn more about the skills our youngsters will need for the future, download Nurturing Institutions for a Resilient Caribbean here!