Graduates still awaiting associate degrees a year after completing programme

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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A year after graduating from the Occupational Associate Degree programme at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) in Kingston, scores of graduates are yet to receive the document which confirms that they have earned the qualification.

The two-year associate degree programme, developed under the direction of the Centre of Occupational Studies in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, was launched in 2016 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to boost Jamaica's skilled workforce in the areas of logistics, business process outsourcing, knowledge process outsourcing, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, and renewable energy technology.

But, according to some angry students, there has been no word from authorities regarding the issuance of the degrees, even as several of them are unable to gain employment, secure promotion at work, or further their studies.

“None of us got our certificates,” one graduate informed the Jamaica Observer when contacted.

“I work for the government and I got time from work to go complete this programme. Now, I have issues with the Services Commission because I didn't get my transcript and I graduate a year now. You know you work with government and you're supposed to get a little increment because you're supposed to have a degree and, I mean, I have nothing,” said the graduate who asked not to be identified out of fear of victimisation.

The Office of the Services Commissions seeks to ensure that appointments, promotions and selections for training within central and local government are done on the basis of merit and that the disciplinary and separation processes are properly managed.

“I'm very disgruntled right about now. We nuh have a clue. We nuh hear nothing. I'm so affected by this, you wouldn't even understand it. To this day I can't get the degree to put on my file. When I ask them they are telling me that they are still trying to get people to check the portfolios that we submitted, and it's whatever, whatever, whatever. Right now mi just deh here and feel like I waste my time,” he said.

On November 28, Dr Grace McLean, permanent secretary in the education ministry, told the Observer that the programme graduated 399 students and they all received certificates.

She had asked the newspaper to e-mail to her the names of the students who had not received certificates in an effort, she said, to rectify the situation. However, the Observer refused to do so as the students did not wish to be identified.

Yesterday, a second graduate with whom the Observer spoke said that he was unable to gain employment despite informing interview panels that he had completed the two-year programme in intermodal and transport operations.

The objective of the associate degree in occupational studies is to create an access conduit between skills-based institutions offering the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica and the Caribbean Vocational Qualification into advanced occupational certification and the traditional education system. It also prepares leaders and supervisory workers with the requisite competencies for local and international employment.

One of the graduates emphasised that he was not sure the programme was meeting its mandate since he is one of several students unable to find jobs without certification.

“It has affected me a lot. I'm waiting on it to get a job which suits my qualification,” the man, who also requested anonymity, said. “Without it, I can't really do anything.”

He shared with the Observer that a desire to change his career pushed him to pursue the associate degree, which he believed would have guaranteed him a position in the logistics industry.

“I wanted the degree or some type of evidence to show that I completed the programme, and all now,” the mechanic said.

“I never imagined that I would be in this position, because it just look like a some bandooloo thing gwaan under the name of the ministry, under the name of CMU. So mi never imagine something like this, and mi make a lot of sacrifices to go school. Mi operate mi own business and I had to take time off to go school and it cost me too. Nuff sacrifice mi mek, man, so mi feel like them should at least mek wi know something concrete and stop give we the runaround,” he added.

The graduate said repeated requests for information from the administration at CMU had proven futile.

“All we doing is waiting for about a year or two now,” said the graduate.

A third graduate explained to the Observer that he has been under severe pressure to prove to his employers that he did not rob company time under the guise of pursuing the degree.

“I took the time off to go to school. Currently, I cannot prove to them that I was going to school without a certification. So, I need to get the certification to submit to them to show that I was going to school. So, there's no proof that I was going to school. They had to roster me around the days that I got off from work and I have nothing to show for it. So now I'm in problem with them,” he stressed.

A fourth graduate, who spoke briefly, said he, too, is unable to provide proof to employers that he has completed the programme. Without the associate degree, he said, “we are unable to prove to employers that we are competent”.

Like his peers, a fifth graduate echoed similar sentiments, stating that he is unable to secure a promotion at work because he cannot present certification.

“At work they ask me my qualifications. I told them I did an associate degree in intermodal transport operation and they keep asking me for the certificate and I don't have it to prove, so it look like I'm telling lies,” he said adding, “if I get the certificate I have a lot of opportunity at work right now as in my pay and position would improve, but I just don't have it.”

The associate degree is offered at CMU, Excelsior Community College, College of Insurance and Professional Studies, Shortwood Teachers' College, The Mico University College, University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, University of Technology, Jamaica; Western Hospitality Institute, St James; Brown's Town Community College, St Ann; College of Agriculture, Science and Education, Portland; GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, and Portmore Community College in St Catherine; Northern Caribbean University, Manchester; Bethlehem Moravian College, St Elizabeth; and Vocational Training Development Institute in Kingston and Manchester.

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