Skills for Employability and Competitiveness
Objective of the session
To understand the main challenges for access to good jobs in the Caribbean, and to showcase
local initiatives to improve the employability and prospects of youth entering the labor force.
Key messages to the participants
The region has achieved impressive educational gains, but below these gains lies a
system that is ill-fitted for nurturing skills for today’s fast-evolving society. Test scores are
low on average, contents have little basis in the needs of the economy and the society as a
whole. The tracking system is failing to provide a viable option for many young people.
Globalization has widened the aspirations of youth, which are increasingly removed from
local realities. Young, educated people look at the global labor market and form their aspirations
accordingly, which creates frustration.
Countries in the region are mobilizing to improve the relevance of the education system
and to offer better opportunities to those who have left school, through training and
entrepreneurship programs. The CXC is actively working with governments in the region and
the private sector to bring the education system to 21st Century standards; youth second chance
programs exist in the region to provide better job opportunities to out of school youth; and
entrepreneurship programs provide much needed financial aid and training to young people with
Key take-aways from the participants' interaction
The education system in the Caribbean does not harness adventurism and passion. As a
result, innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking are being stifled. One participant in the
meeting noted that schools in the region were stifling the creativity and passion of students. The
end result was that their ideas and enthusiasm were being stifled. This in fact reinforced what
some stakeholders told us about the workplace in the region. Both employers and youth noted
that young people often came to work with a lot of ideas and passion, but that this was often
stifled by employers and seniors.
‘Digital Kids in Analog Classrooms.’ The importance of ICTs was a recurring theme in the
discussions and presentation. The need to improve teaching methods and to offer training and
education in ICTs were highlighted. The tight window of time to catch up with other regions was
also noted. This is another point that reinforced findings from the qualitative study, as employers
in the banking and hotel sectors, noted their needs for skilled personnel in various IT areas
relevant to their sectors.
The education system is leaving boys behind. The low level of performance by boys was also
noted by participants. One commenter in the audience lamented that the education system in the
region was not adapted to address the different stages of development according to gender.
Diversification. Teaching in non-traditional areas is also lacking, with a focus on few academic
areas, which end up saturating the employment market. Engineering and law were two examples.
It was noted that teaching in non-traditional skills was needed to encourage entrepreneurship and
job creation in non-traditional sectors.
Changes coming in testing and certification. CXC noted several upcoming changes to the
way its testing and certification will be carried out in the region. The timing of these reforms will be
Incorporate mass media in education. An innovative idea to improve literacy and training was
suggested by one participant based on a model from India where lyrics to Bollywood videos were
captioned on television screens leading to increases in literacy. The suggestion was made to
include mass media to a greater extent in the delivery of education and training.