Friday, June 4, 2010


PM wants students better prepared for the job market

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education writer

PRIME Minister Bruce Golding has criticsed the education system for what he said is its failure to provide adequate career information and counselling to students, and is meeting with the island's tertiary institutions to address the matter.
Golding said his view is based on the comments of youngsters with whom he has spoken, who seem to lack information about their chosen fields of study.
"When you ask 'why you chose this particular course?' the reasons you get would amaze you," the prime minister said of university students.
He was speaking two Wednesdays ago at the launch of the Special Youth Employment and Training Project, a new programme that seeks to train and employ 10,000 unattached young people over the next four years.
Golding noted that while some people with qualifications cannot find employment, vacancies in other fields went unfilled.
"I don't get a sense that people are selecting their pursuits with proper guidance. There are people who are electing to place themselves in a cul de sac, where the opportunities are not there. There are other areas that take up five, six, seven pages of advertisements in the (newspaper) every Sunday, pleading for persons to come forward. Some sychronisation needs to be done," he said.
The PM's statements have attracted mixed reactions from players in the business and education sectors. Hector Wheeler, director of advancement at the University of Technology (UTech), said while some students are very uncertain about their career path, it was not due to a lack of effort on his university's part.
"Some students come into university not knowing what they want to study, and nothing is wrong with that, but we are able to suggest areas they will enjoy and in which they will be employed immediately after leaving," Wheeler told Career & Education.
He said students who do not make up their minds about their careers tend to waste time and underachieve at the institution.
"Some students register because it's what their parents want, or because their friends are here. But in these days when the cost of education is so high it can be a very expensive waste," Wheeler said.
Serious career counselling for prospective students of UTech begins at third form, before students select their school leaving CSEC subjects, Wheeler noted, and with career options changing rapidly, educating students on their options takes some effort.
"We have to keep being aggressive in marketing our courses to students," he said.
Angela deFreitas, general manager of Choices Career Advice, agrees with Golding. She noted that many people become frustrated with their jobs because they had inadequate information about their line of work.
"In the work force, there are many people who are dissatisfied with their positions, having spent many years and lots of money on degrees. A lot of people did arts degrees, for example, which were not leading them to anything," deFreitas said.
She added that traditionally, career guidance was not treated with the importance it deserved and feels it is time for specialist career counsellors to be introduced in schools, distinct from the guidance counsellors who have increased responsibilities.
"Guidance counsellors are called upon to intervene in so many important things happening in the school - parent/teacher relationships, teenage sexuality, and school violence. They try to infuse career counselling into the curriculum, but I believe we need to go another stage because the children are getting a raw deal," deFreitas said.
She also suggested that students undergo psychometric tests which measure skills, interests, aptitutes and values to help determine their career path.
In addition, she said the private sector needs to assist further in the career counselling process.
"While the link between businesses needs and the universities is developing, it's not yet strong enough," deFreitas said.
Ray Howell, Principal of Edith Dalton James High in St Andrew said schools are extensively involved in career counselling, but in some schools, students are just not interested.
"In schools such as mine, 80 per cent of the students come in with grades of under 50 per cent in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). Many young people want a job but they are looking for fast money. Only a few are prepared to really settle down and work hard at a career. It's far more complex than what the prime minister is saying," he told Career & Education.
Another requirement, said Howell, is more mentorship of students to get them to understand and focus on prospective careers.
President of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, Omar Azan, said some students may be unclear about their career options because of the difficulties in finding employment.
"While it is important to set your career goals, and to educate yourself to find a job or start your own company, in a situation where the competition for jobs is so high, wherever you can find a job to earn a living, that is where you have to go," he said.
Azan added that the school system should ensure that students are well informed about careers through guidance counsellors.

Sunday, November 02, 2008