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Bring the evidence, says UWI guild president

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 24, 2014    

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PRESIDENT of the University of the West Indies, Mona Guild of Students Lerone Laing last week called for more empirical evidence before pronouncements of prioritising one area of study over another.

Earlier this year, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites said that in considering loan applications, the Students' Loan Bureau would concentrate on students who applied to study medicine, engineering, pharmacology, science, and maritime studies. In fact, at a recent Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, the minister said that he didn't think those studying law would be favoured either.

"In what is effectively a triage situation, it is no use saying every profession is as good as anyone else and if I feel like doing it I should have equal opportunity for finance, because we have to look and see how we can guide and articulate these things towards developmental goals," the education minister told journalists at the newspaper's offices on Beechwood Avenue in St Andrew.

However, Laing is cautioning that pronouncements such as these should be backed by sufficient evidence.

"Currently, based on my information, there isn't really empirical evidence which would suggest we should prioritise one career over another," Laing told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview. "What we have to do, and I encourage the Government to do, I know the PIOJ (Planning Institute of Jamaica) does some form of labour market survey, but it needs to be specific.

"They do it as part of their normal statistics taking, there needs to be one done specifically with the view of meeting our 2030 development goals," Laing continued. "So we see the logistics hub coming, many are saying we need to be trained or qualified in technical expertise, but nothing empirical is saying (exactly) how many (people) are going to be needed."

The guild president insisted that the message cannot be that everybody needs to get technical training because one industry will not be able to absorb everybody trained in technical areas.

"We still need social sciences. So the message has to be careful and it has to be based on empirical studies," Laing said.

"And the advice of even the minister about prioritising one area over another, he needs to be careful of his pronouncements because if he does that without empiric (data), and is not careful how he is guiding youths to choose career paths, we are going to end up possibly overloading one sector and not (sufficiently supplying) another sector," Laing continued.

He insists that there is not enough empirical evidence for those decisions to be made at this time and that more labour market surveys are needed, "especially with a projection view in mind".

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