Million dollar training grant now accessible to Barbadian employers and training providers
An ambitious programme that will award grant funding to partnerships between employers and training providers has been established to better equip the Barbadian workforce for the demands of the 21st century market place.
A key component of the government’s Skills for the Future education and labour initiative, the Competency-Based Training Fund (CBTF) will disburse $13 million over a three-year period to employer and training provider partnerships to implement competency-based training programmes leading to National and Caribbean Vocational Qualifications. Partnerships can receive as much as $800,000 per training proposal, which will be evaluated on a competitive basis.
One key goal is for the supply of technical and vocational training to become more aligned with market demand based on training gaps identified by employers. With a more certified workforce Barbados will be able to position itself more competitively on a regional and global scale.
Recently at the CBTF Management Unit (CMU) in Harbour Industrial Estate, Fund Manager, Anderson Lowe said, “The CBTF is an exciting opportunity because it has the potential to revolutionise the way employers and training institutions deliver technical and vocational training. It also has the ability to empower Barbadian workers, across all sectors, to be more skilled, competent and confident in their jobs and careers – whether here or abroad.”
The Fund Manager added: “The programme also has high relevance during the current economic climate because it will equip our workforce, not just the employed but those who are displaced, retrenched or unemployed with additional skills which they can use both locally and abroad. Our vision, therefore, is to create a globally competitive workforce through the use of world class occupational standards and certification.”
Other potential benefits of the fund include fostering mutually beneficial relationships between the private sector and training institutions, and dispelling the perception of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as being suitable for a certain subset of the workforce.
Growth sectors being specially targeted.
Speaking about the sectors being targeted for funding, Mr. Lowe said that while training projects across various industries are eligible, the CBTF is especially interested in projects in the Manufacturing, Agriculture, Hospitality, Health & Wellness, Creative Industries, and Alternative Energy sectors.
He added, “Training must be based on occupational standards in National and Caribbean Vocational Qualifications registered in the TVET Council, or be new standards to be developed and validated under the proposal.”
The Competency-Based Training Fund is being administered in cooperation with the TVET Council. Its Executive Director, Henderson Eastmond said that he hoped that any lessons learnt from the implementation of the Competency-Based Training Fund would help the TVET Council to reform the Employment and Training Fund (ETF). “We hope that with the CBTF we would have sown the seeds for the creation of stronger industry and training institution partnerships as well as build further sustainability.”
Speaking to the some of the distinctions between the ETF and the CBTF, Mr. Eastmond explained that the CBTF would provide much larger grants than the ETF. “There’s much more money available in the CBTF and you’ll still have the ETF running at the same time, so you could tap into both funds. The difference is that with the CBTF employers must partner with training institutions. We also hope that with the CBTF the industry partner would take the lead in developing the curriculum for the programme, so that training is demand-driven, because in many cases that does not happen.”
Eligible employers to be registered for at least two years
With regards to the eligibility of employers applying to the fund, employers must be locally registered or incorporated for at least two years. There are also opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs to unify their efforts to submit a joint proposal with a training provider.
Mr. Lowe explained, “The fund is open to all employers not matter how big or small they are. However, it would not be cost-effective to provide training to one particular person. Smaller businesses, therefore, are encouraged to get together – they can join with each other, or their trade associations and they can form partnerships with a training provider and receive training that way. The fund also makes provision for training unemployed and part-time persons to expand the range of skills available in the market place.”
Local training providers can be public or private, should be compliant with the NIS and be operating for at least two years. There is also scope for employers to partner with regional or international training providers.
Private sector welcomes fund
Michael Phillips, Commercial Director at the Crane Resorts welcomed the fund particularly during the current recession and in the context of Barbados’ tourism industry being unlikely to establish competitive advantage on cost leadership. “It’s therefore become a strategic imperative for the hotel and tourism industry to compete on the basis of service excellence. In order to achieve that positioning, we really need to enhance our service delivery systems. And as we seek globally competitive positions it’s become increasingly evident that we are going to have to invest in our human resources. At the Crane we’ve long recognised the importance of competency-based training and we think that it has underpinned our continued competitiveness and the fact that we’ve been able to establish ourselves as a luxury brand.”
Encouraging other enterprises to invest in competency-based training, Mr. Phillips added, “There is certainly room for academic degrees but in the end, at all the various levels, we want to encourage all of the industry partners to seriously consider competency-based training. And the fact that there are funds available to make that happen should provide sufficient incentive for us to seriously consider this approach.”
Stephen Savoury, Director of Training at the Barbados Institute of Management of Productivity (BIMAP) expressed excitement at being part of an initiative to improve and expand the range of skills of the Barbadian workforce. “The CBTF comes at a particularly significant time for BIMAP as many of our membership companies have expressed their desire to increase the level of training and certification of their own staff. Many are looking for new skills to improve on their offerings especially in the exporting of their services.”
Mr. Savoury added that the fund presented a great opportunity. “It allows employers to look at the really big picture for their organisations, now and into the future and move their companies forward, taking advantage of the training opportunities that exist. Being able to access 100% funding for those training initiatives will help to better position them for greater competitive advantage in the markets that they serve. So we’re very excited about the fund because it allows Barbadian employers to really focus attention on growing their businesses.”
Information Workshops for employers and training providers starting March 31
In order to raise awareness of the fund, a website has been developed and is available at www.cbtf.com.bb. A series of Information Workshops will also take place from Monday March 31 to Thursday April 3, 2014 to provide interested employers and training providers with details on submitting viable proposals to the fund, eligibility and evaluation criteria, as well as provide opportunities for them to network with each other and form partnerships.
The March 31 workshop will focus on Hospitality and Tourism, and Health and Wellness; the April 1 workshop focuses on Energy, Finance and Technology; while the April 2 workshop focuses on the Agriculture, Construction and Manufacturing sectors. The final workshop on April 3 will concentrate on the Creative, Retail, Emerging and other sectors.
The workshops will be followed by a formal Call for Proposals on April 11 through May 23, with the first round of funding being disbursed in August 2014.
Competency-Based Training is a learning system which considers learners competent in an occupational area based on their demonstration of mastery skills, knowledge and attitudes. This is its key difference to traditional education which relies on acquiring content-based knowledge alone.