On Wednesday, the East Port of Spain Development Company (EPOS) announced a new cycle of training in a range of construction skills. Out of an application pool of 400, 130 were chosen for the fourth cycle of training, an increase of 69 per cent in the student cohort.
In December 2022, 68 participants graduated from the training programme, the third cycle to benefit from skills training for construction and industry.
Training will again be managed by the MIC Institute of Technology and the NESC Technical Institute and participants will be trained for seven months in their choice of a range of disciplines, including carpentry, masonry, electrical installation, plumbing, welding, air-conditioning and refrigeration repair and maintenance.
Notably, three past participants will be joining the training team as assistant instructors.
The training will also include coaching in life skills, entrepreneurship and communication and with three cycles worth of experience, EPOS should be pressing to both institutionalise non-technical, business training as a value-add for trainees, while building out the model to service more communities in Trinidad and Tobago, engaging established businesses as mentors and sources of internship for graduates.
Practical technical training married to a realistic business coaching regime will be necessary to prepare graduates for the reality of a difficult construction sector.
In Tobago, slowdowns in construction have led to an estimated 1,000 workers on that island being laid off in 2022.
In 2022, construction businesses that had already shed staff were looking to work on projects outside TT, with hopes to participate in Guyana's growth phase as the sector grapples with the rising cost of cement and the slow restart of government construction projects.
In her speech at the launch of the new training programme, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis emphasised the value of the education opportunity for the 68 participants, which she described as the top 30 per cent of applicants, but did not mention any upcoming projects from her ministry that might call on their skills.
Continuous training and upskilling of blue-collar workers are widely regarded to be an important indicator of a growing and thriving economy.
Encouraging an environment of professional training, senior practitioner mentorship and supervised internships will only improve the quality of the human resource available to contractors.
The Government's projects have traditionally called on large numbers of skilled workers, reducing the numbers available to the private sector and small construction projects that are also important to national development.
On those occasions when big government projects lag or national development cycles create excesses in the pool of available workers, it is the best trained and most reputable labourers who will continue to be in demand both locally and in the region.