Dr. McAfee's Remarks at Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum 2019

Jun

21

Good morning. It is my pleasure to support today’s forum and join this important dialogue.

The workforce system in the Cayman Islands has not kept pace with the economic expansion thus far and must be reengineered to meet our forecasted growth. We have an opportunity today to consider how best to change future workforce outcomes.

It has been my experience that when educators and employers work together, programmes of study can enhance work readiness and career advancement.

Education that coordinates classroom instruction with work-based learning experiences and leads to the attainment of industry-endorsed education credentials and desired job skills is what you will hear me refer to as career pathways.

Multiple entry and exit points along a career pathway enable people to upskill and secure jobs with increasing responsibility and compensation. Career pathways explicitly map the education and soft skills needed to obtain an entry level job and to advance to mid level and advanced roles within the same job family.

As we know, one excellent choice is a college degree, but other post-secondary credentials are equally important and can be pathways to a degree. Middle-skill jobs require education beyond high school up to a four-year degree and make up a large portion of the labour market in the Cayman Islands. TVET and many associate degrees can provide entry into rewarding middle-skill jobs with career advancement.

We must focus on high-leverage strategies that scaffold from existing efforts to build a comprehensive national, demand-driven career pathways system. This type of system could prepare thousands of people for middle-skill jobs in targeted high growth industry and social sectors.

Building a comprehensive, demand-driven career pathways system is a collective responsibility. 

Employers need to collaborate with educational institutions to develop a sector-based approach to expanding the talent supply that possess the skills and education you need. To accomplish this, we need you to contribute to the development of a national framework providing guidance on the need for both degree programmes and “fast-track” industry valued credentials that are customised to meet the needs of a diverse range of job seekers.

As educators we must design curricula and develop new programmes of study that increasingly offer a sequence of short-term credentials that can be “stacked” into longer career pathways which give job seekers a clearer understanding of educational on and off ramps to advance their careers as circumstances permit.

If we begin now, this type of approach would allow our nation to better meet the needs of youth and adults, who require basic academic instruction in addition to professional training that leads to workforce readiness. We will accomplish this through cooperative work-based learning where classroom education and work site internships are interwoven into cohesive learning experiences. Community-based organisations provide critical support services to ensure more students thrive and complete their educational goals.

To build a demand-driven workforce development system requires greater private and public funding. The most successful systems target programme investments through regional funding collaboratives to ensure mutual benefit for employers and employees, targeting gaps in the existing education system, and catalysing involvement of key stakeholders. 

One approach is to incentivise “braided funding” strategies to leverage public and private funding to incubate strategies. Government should consider how to scale impact by aligning existing education and workforce development initiatives and funding, where possible, with the goal of more effectively closing the skills gap within the national framework.

Finally, we will need new structures and collaborations. Let’s establish sector councils, industry-based collaborations of employers and educators. Let’s strengthen the capacity of educational institutions to gather, analyse and predict real-time labour market needs and outcomes. Let’s broaden access to tertiary education by developing targeted outreach strategies to grow postsecondary attendance and workforce readiness with a broader group of people.

In closing, the Cayman Islands has the knowledge and the resources to make comprehensive tertiary education a reality. UCCI is raising our hand and asking you to join us as we undertake this important national priority of building a demand-driven tertiary education system.

 

Delivered at the Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum on 19 June 2019.