Matthue Prescott, 24, a student of the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Open Campus in San Fernando, copped the top prize in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Future of Work Essay Competition, recently contested by a number of students from all regional universities.
The local boy, who is a student in the Bachelor of Science Programme in International Management, beat St Lucia’s Omari Obaseki Joseph, an international tourism student at UWI, St Augustine, into second place. Third-place winner, Trinidadian De Andre Albert, is studying statistics at UWI, St Augustine.
Organised in collaboration with the UWI (St Augustine Campus), the essay competition invited undergraduate-level university students from across the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean to submit their best ideas on how the region can adapt to transformative changes to deliver economic security, equal opportunity and social justice.
It sought to raise greater awareness of the ILO’s Future of Work initiative among Caribbean youth as part of its Centenary and 50th anniversary in the Caribbean celebrations and the INO's 100th anniversary.
Contestants were asked to address the issues presented in the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work Report “Work for a Brighter Future.”
Claudia Coenjaerts, director of the ILO office for the Caribbean, told those gathered for the award ceremony at the ILO Port of Spain office last Wednesday evening that Prescott impressed the nine regional judges with his essay for many reasons, including his reference to ILO standards.
He also proposed educating young people in the new skills required for digital platforms, and urged the need for the Caribbean to invest in lifelong learning.
Coenjaerts added that Prescott also addressed how the Caribbean could improve its adaptability to future work transformations while mitigating risks, and cited efforts in the Caribbean to advance renewable energy and green enterprises, highlighting Barbados, where green initiatives were being created and implemented.
Prescott, as well as Joseph received full scholarships that include tuition, subsistence allowance and travel to attend the ILO’s “The Future of Work” Summer Academy from today to August 23, at the ILO International Training Centre in Turin, Italy.
For that two-week period, they will join young people from around the world to participate in innovative dialogues, training, capacity building activities and knowledge-management exercises connected to the future of work.
They will also gain insights into the jobs of tomorrow, and they will learn fair transitions to environmental sustainability, how to regulate the platform economy and new strategies to break the glass ceiling.
Speaking after his presentation, Prescott first expressed his gratitude for being chosen as the winner.
He said: “I am very appreciative of the opportunity and I feel very humble.”
Prescott said he wrote the essay with the intention of just learning and expressing what he had learnt from the ILO standards. So when the opportunity came, even if he didn’t win, he said, he would have learned a lot of information that was necessary for him to develop his career and education.
“So I took time to write the essay, to study and to learn about different research that the ILO did pertaining to the world and also how that applied to Caribbean, and that was the approach.”
Coenjaerts said afterwards that on a recent visit to The Bahamas, where some young people were present while she was talking about the ILO and about trade, they told her while they are very interested in the subject they really didn’t know much about trade unions. So she returned to office with the real understanding that something needed to be done.
“We really need to think and reflect about how we engage young people more continuously. I think that overall we really want to get young people and even high schools to get more involved in understanding that they can actually contribute to why they want to be in the world of work.”
Saying the essay competition marked an important place in the ILO’s centenary celebrations in the region, Jennifer Jones-Morales thanked Coenjaerts, who collaborated with UWI, which offered the unique platform to promote the competition to some 30,000 students.
The universities of Guyana, TT and Belize did the same, and the promotion reached as far as Bangladesh, because a submission came from there, as well as one from Haiti.
While a number of people said it should not be 100 years before the competition was held again, Coenjaerts could not readily give any such commitment.
She said: "I cannot make an absolute steadfast promise that from now on this is going to be an annual event. But the enthusiasm with which this has taken off has certainly motivated us to really look at whether this is something we can do on a regular basis."