THE EDUCATION Ministry's announcement that it would be streamlining its technical vocational education and training at the five major institutions offering that programme is an important step.
The MIC Institute of Technology, University of TT, National Energy Skills Centre, Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme and College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts will now focus their curricula and evaluation in alignment with 19 sectors identified for national development.
The ministry's commitment to refine and develop this sector of education with a focus on the professional prospects of students is laudable.
The Government began its technical and vocational revitalisation programme in April with its Taste of TVET (Technical and Vocational Education Training) in secondary schools and career fairs, introducing schools to the scope of education opportunities available in the sector.
The ministry has targeted 26 schools in its Remedial Education Initiative, beginning its road show with Success Laventille Secondary School and Princes Town East Secondary School.
The programme is a mix of hands-on skills, offering simulations in air conditioning and refrigeration, beauty therapy, building electrical, cake decorating, carpentry, information technology communication, patient care, plumbing and welding. But it would be a mistake to champion this programme to only address students who have faltered in formal academia. Increasingly, the realm of technical and vocational work requires less mindless manual labour and more applied engineering practice, requiring the work of skilled professionals capable of executing the plans and designs of technocrats.
In a world that has already embraced the Internet of Things, automation is increasingly likely to consume the mundane and repetitive, calling for a vocational workforce ready for continuing upskilling that won't end with graduation from an institution.
To that end, the ministry must also pay attention to the few secondary schools that still offer TVET subjects for student cohorts unsuited to formal academia. The quality of training at these schools must properly prepare these students before guiding them into more advanced studies in their chosen profession.
The first effort at technical and vocational education came during the surge in school construction of the 1970s and the establishment of junior and senior secondary schools. The value of such training remains undiminished and must be both modernised and expanded within the secondary school system as preparation for the TVET effort.
When secondary school students choose advanced studies at YTEPP or MIC, they should be doing so with a background of success in technical training at the secondary-school level.
In returning to the value proposition of technical and vocational training, the Education Ministry must embrace it as a valid and necessary alternative to formal academia and assign it the resources and talent necessary to train a valuable workforce.