Buoyant future for Bridgetown Port and employees through Competency-Based Training
A docker sees a buoyant future for himself at the Bridgetown Port due, in large part, to receiving his Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) in Stevedoring Foundation Skills at Level 1, and being among the first six employees there to do so.
Marcellus Louis, 49, is the first to admit that he thought the on-the-job training which required him to master and effectively demonstrate skills would have been challenging but he declares: “It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”
For one, he and his colleagues are much more confident in their roles as they board ships having gone through training in areas such as Occupational Health and Safety and Loading and Unloading Cargo. “The first unit we did was Health and Safety and afterwards, on the job, you could feel the difference. We now try to implement ‘safety first’ in everything we do. The whole process of working, everything, has improved,” Marcellus explains.
Better equipped to do job
Marcellus has been employed at the port since 2006 with a role that includes unloading containers as well as locating barrels and transporting them to the examination area. As a result of doing the CVQ he feels better equipped to do his job. “I’ve unlearnt bad practices and am following guidelines. Health and Safety was my favourite unit because as dock workers there were a lot of unusual practices that the training helped to highlight. So the training has come and has improved work all round.”
Marcellus is not content to rest on his laurels, however. In addition to gaining the Level 1 CVQ he has undergone training in cargo supervising, which falls under Level 3, and is currently a reserve forklift operator, covered under Level 2. And Marcellus is aiming to fully complete the Level 2 and 3 CVQs. “There’s no function at the port, that if it comes to me and I’m capable, that I’ll turn down,” he declares.
While acknowledging that working at the port often comes with long hours especially during the tourist season, the father of three says his job has helped him provide for his family including the education of his children. His oldest daughter is studying dentistry at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, his son is an accountant, and his younger daughter is in sixth form at the Foundation School.
The docker is a keen advocate of competency-based training among his co-workers. “I have been encouraging my colleagues, and telling them this is for you and for the betterment of the port. These are procedures we do every day so when the assessor comes you just carry on your duties as normal.”
Dockers more safety conscious through competency-based training
Peter Carrington, Human Resources Manager, Barbados Port Inc. is pleased to see the improvements in attitudes and performance among dock workers doing the CVQ in Stevedoring. In addition to the six dockers recently awarded the Level 1 CVQ, 16 more are being prepared for certification of the 40 that have completed on-the-job training. “What I’ve noticed is that there’s a lot more communication in terms of the planning of activities and their execution. The dockers are better able to work as a team and they seem more safety conscious; they’re also able to work things out systematically and are very quick to tell others when they’re not following the correct procedures. There’s also a higher level of camaraderie among them.”
As one of the winning partnerships in the first cycle of the Competency-Based Training Fund (CBTF) the Bridgetown Port, in conjunction with the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), has an ambitious vision to see its entire workforce benefit from competency-based training, thus redefining the way it does business. Under the two-year programme being funded by the CBTF, an additional 95 dock workers will be trained, assessed and receive CVQs in Stevedoring at various levels.
The CBTF is a Government programme awarding up to $13 million in grants for competency-based training projects designed to better equip Barbadian workers with the skills and competencies they need to excel in an increasingly competitive market place.
Competency-based training differs from traditional education which relies on acquiring content-based knowledge and test-taking only. Instead competency-based training deems learners competent in an occupational area based on how well they practically demonstrate their mastery of skills, knowledge and attitudes.
CVQ empowering workers
Mr. Carrington says the CVQs will help to empower workers so that “they can see themselves as quality workers and have something to aim for and work towards. Persons coming into the job will also have to be certified. This will allow us to select the best persons for the job.”
Other benefits of pursuing CVQs, the Human Resources Manager says, include a pathway to career mobility. “The CVQ gives workers bargaining power; they can work not only here in Barbados but across region with their certification. They can also assert that they’ve attained a standard that is accepted regionally and internationally.”
In terms of the impact of the training on operations at the port, Mr. Carrington says, “We’re seeing a reduction in the level of accidents and damage to cargo. Furthermore, the number of insurance claims has been reduced and we’re paying lower insurance costs. ”
Mr. Carrington sees the fund as “lifting us to a different level in terms of expectations and how we must be organised in our planning and documentation. It has also set us specific training targets to reach over a two-year period as well as helped us to get recognition because hitherto no-one knew the port was involved in CVQs but because of the national approach to training and developing workers CVQs have become the ‘in thing‘. The CBTF is a good initiative.”
The Bridgetown Port’s training partner for the CBTF, Caribbean Maritime Institute, agrees. Its representative, Emerson Alleyne says, “In difficult economic times training is the best way forward so we would want to advise employers to use the opportunity to train their employees so that when things get better they can benefit almost immediately because of the improved levels of efficiency that their employees would have gained.”
For Marcellus the sky is the limit. When asked about his future plans and how his career at the port will help he says, “If life and health continue, by the grace of God, I should look for a retirement investment and it’s my thought to get another house. Once you remain employed in the port anything is possible.”