Caribbean Education for Employment Program (C-EFE) Program was designed to contribute to economic growth through the development of a more competitive, productive and gender-equitable Caribbean workforce. The program focused on strengthening Caribbean institutional capacity to develop and deliver demand-driven technical and vocational education and training (TVET) that met the needs of employers looking to hire locally trained skilled workers.
The program was developed in response to the pressing need to address the significant number of out-of-school and unemployed youth across the region. There was a lack of competitive skills within the region’s human resource base, which hindered economic development throughout the region.
The region had made a commitment to improve regional economic integration as a way for member countries to become more competitive. However, National Training Agencies (NTAs) and their regional association, the Caribbean Association of National Training Agencies (CANTA) had weak Labour Market Information, and inconsistent program standards and certification. CARICOM and CANTA saw the C-EFE program as an opportunity to strengthen NTAs and through them CANTA in order to have a strengthened TVET coordinating body in the region that could foster the mobility of skilled labour which would lead to improved regional economic integration.
The Caribbean educational training institutions were traditional, academic, supply- driven systems. TVET was considered a secondary option for many young people and their parents, and girls and women were discouraged from studying traditionally male sectors.
CICan’s CEFE Program aimed to achieve the following results:
- Strengthen regional coordination of quality assurance (QA) for demand-driven, gender & environmentally sensitive TVET training & workforce certification systems.o Increase employment, including self-employment, of female & male TVET graduates; certified workers, including from disadvantaged groups.
- Enhance the delivery of quality competency-based, demand-driven, and gender and environmentally sensitive TVET across the CARICOM region.
CICan worked with NTAs and TVET Councils to build their capacity to offer Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) certification to uncertified workers and TVET graduates, contributing to a more qualified labour force, with mobility in the region. The CVQ is now widely known in the region, cited by employers, educators, government officials whereas it was virtually unknown before the project was initiated in 2011. Eight National Training Agencies are currently awarding CVQs.
C-EFE enhanced relationships between TVET training institution and industry to ensure the goal of TVET graduates meeting regional labour market skills demands was met.
The CEFE Program supported its regional partners to transform the Caribbean TVET system to be more gender-equitable, responsive, applied, and demand driven.
Recognizing the concerns surrounding male-underachievement, as it relates to
inequalities that negatively affect women, C-EFE encouraged boys who dropped out of school to participate in practical learning that lead to employment. This was done through the development of pre-technology courses in “attractor fields” such as digital animation and music career management.
C-EFE supported the CARICOM Secretariat and regional bodies to develop a social marketing program to increase the status and enrolment in TVET programs and achieve a rebranding of such programs in the population’s mind, especially the influencers like parents. The result was the start of a public shift in perception that is seeing TVET at the regional level as an equal option to university and other types of training. Additionally, gender equitable recruitment/retention strategies were developed to introduce young men and women into sectors in which they were previously under-represented.
Over a thousand graduates of the pre-technology and regular programs are employed or engaged in further education and training, having moved out of the “Not in Education, Employment, or Training” (NEET) category (2,906 students trained in 11 sectors; 1,603 graduates from 18 new demand-driven programs across 11 sectors).
Through institutional partnerships with CICan’s Canadian college, polytechnic, and training institute members, 15 Caribbean TVET institutions benefitted from capacity development in Competency-based Education and Training (CBET), prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR), engaging with employers, conducting labour market scans, developing career counselling skills, developing gender and environment policies, and developing curricula based on occupational standards. Institutions and agencies delivering the pre-technology programs benefitted from gender training and training in using counselling and other services to support at-risk learners.
The methodology used is replicable because of CICan’s approach that is designed to respond to the priorities established by local partners. CICan’s “Education for Employment” approach strengthens cooperation between the most important actors in the training and employment space, which are employers, training institutions and their surrounding communities, and the government. By supporting these three groups of partners to align their priorities and develop sustainable links among one another, the ultimate beneficiaries are the Caribbean students who enrolled in newly developed demand-driven programs at participating training institutions in the region, , who will receive TVET skills in high demand sectors, entrepreneurships skills, and a greater sense of respect for their female and male colleagues while in training and on the job.