Some 60 participants from the six Dutch Caribbean islands, the Netherlands, Barbados and Jamaica took part in the second Caribbean Vocational and Trade Schools Network (C-VET) conference in Saba on Monday. Main focus was the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) and its implementation in Saba and St. Eustatius.
Saba Commissioner of Education Bruce Zagers, Director-General of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science OCW Alida Oppers and Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) Director and Conference Chairman Anton Hermans welcomed the participants at the Eugenius Johnson Center in Windwardside on Monday morning. Technical and vocational education specialist Adrian Holder from Barbados was the keynote speaker at the conference which was financed by the Ministry of OCW.
“We are here to help erase the stigma of vocational education,” said master of ceremonies Michelle Martie, a message that was underscored by the other speakers. “Vocational education is as important as any other education,” said Commissioner Zagers, who noted that former vocational students were now successful local entrepreneurs and “pillars of the community.”
“Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with CVQ’s whereas vocationally trained professionals are crucial to society: we can’t live and function without their skills,” said keynote speaker Holder.
Director-General Oppers said the CVQ program better served the needs on the labour market while also providing more opportunities for the students, making the best of their potential and having a better chance at finding a job. She said that St. Maarten was an important partner in advanced education due to the limited scale of Saba and St. Eustatius. “It is important to pull together, and I am happy to see so many representatives from St. Maarten here.”
Conference Chairman Hermans said that it was important for the secondary schools on all islands to work collectively to further improve vocational education and to face the challenges together. Keynote speaker Holder agreed that it was vital to invest in education and the future of youngsters.
Holder mentioned the many advantages of the CVQ program. Students overall attain a more positive attitude, they are less often late for classes, their confidence gets a boost and they see the value of education. Moreover, students learn about teamwork, they become more safety conscious and gain employment more easily. The combination of solid work skills, high safety skills and good work ethics creates opportunities for entrepreneurship, but also makes these students very valued by employers.
Saba’s SCS high school has just started the implementation of a pilot for the CVQ. This week, the pilot for technical vocational eduction starts, while hospitality will commence in March next year. Four students are taking part in the pilot. The formal implementation of the CVQ will take place in the school year 2019-2020. Director-General Oppers congratulated the SCS on the implementation.
Until now, Saba has the Dutch based middle vocational education MBO system. One important advantage of using the CVQ is that it makes it easier for students to continue their studies in the Caribbean region. Commissioner Zagers explained that Saba invested quite a lot in vocational education in the past few years. “We had to start building from the ground level. But we now have a successful program,” he said.
Prior to Monday’s conference, a ‘Meet & Greet’ was held at the Queen’s Gardens Resort in The Bottom on Sunday evening. During this conference kick-off event participants had the opportunity to meet each other, catch up with old friends and get familiarized with this year’s C-VET conference program.
Part of the conference kick-off was the launch of the Saba Vocational Promotion Video, which shows a day in the life of a tourist on Saba and the importance role that vocational professionals play in the process to accommodate visitors to the island.
Aside from the official opening on Monday morning, the conference program included break-out sessions, a lunch at the SCS and field trips. The second C-VET conference was the result of the initial conference that was held on Sint Maarten in October 2016 where the desire was expressed to continue to meet each other to discuss and improve vocational and trade school education in the Caribbean, especially in the Dutch Caribbean.