Dr Pinnock is right, but..
A declaration by Executive Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute and chairman of the Logistics Hub Task Force sub-committee on education and training, Dr Fritz Pinnock, that the current education system needs to be redesigned to focus more on skills and certification rather than on degrees has received mixed reactions from Jamaica Observer online readers. In addressing editors and reporters at this week's Monday Exchange, Dr Pinnock said that Jamaica will only benefit from the hub if people get skills training and certification in fields determined by the marketplace. Here are some edited comments:
By the time we sit and argue the logics of your argument, Dr P, we would have missed the boat as usual. Skills mean sweat equity, degree means A/C.
So when we train everybody with skills to work at the hub and they want only 500 workers, what become of the others?
I would imagine that you keep the academics as is but widen the curriculum to encompass technical skills. Do not focus on one sector at the expense of the other as both areas can coexist.
There are two extremes of the continuum of the education experience that we should steer clear of. Peter Drucker spoke of them in his book Managing in a Time of Great Change (p.235):
1. An overemphasis on formal degrees rather than performance capacity; and
2. Overvaluing usable practical knowledge while underrating the importance of fundamentals and of wisdom altogether.
One of the oldest institutions in Jamaica, Mico, has at various times fallen prey to both vices. We have debased the teaching of our standard tongue English. Mathematics has been taught in such a way as to frighten the majority of students.
The culture of envy has been stoked by our politicians and the cancer of clientelism has spread throughout the body politic. We are afraid to use the word capitalism. Indeed the very mention of the word is viewed with hatred yet we expect to foster an entrepreneurial class that will stay in Jamaica. It made me shudder that a member of the our community had to ask who benefits from capitalism. If we are going to spend the rest of our days debating its virtues, those who realise the uses of capitalism will be there like China ready and willing to dominate us. Stop using the euphemism entrepreneurism and use the word capitalism.
Why this blind faith in this logistic hub? The Chinese will be carrying their own skilled workers anyway so that won't be any problem for them. The only benefit Jamaica will be getting from this is a damaged environment, low paying work and some deplorable working conditions. That is how the Chinese operate. They take advantage of desperate situations.
The country should form a political party comprised of female doctors and engineers. Problem solved. The men mash up the country and will not admit it. Dunce bullies.
This should be nothing new to leaders who have wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Engineers and sciences are the areas we should have been focusing on from the day Jamaica gained independence.
These are the areas which lead to the creation of vast employment and wealth in a country, not paper-pushing crap such as law degrees and most social sciences.
Now that our resources have been squandered and the fools have bitten their own tails, let us hope that some form of wisdom is found so as to revolutionise the education system by training and certifying by the thousands, Jamaicans, in as much technical fields as the present depleted resources allow.
Whomever the academics missed are the ones to be targeted. These people are sitting at the corners idling.
Dr Dean and Dr Pinnock are right, but what they are proposing will have to overcome decades of cultural bias of which they are examples. Why aren't business people leading a committee that is looking at business opportunities?? It is well known in the Caribbean that you only pursue hand labour if you don't have the brains for white collar professions. People aspire to "run things" and not to make things that run or keep them running. Just look at most government agencies and businesses. They are headed by people with 'Dr' in front their name and ex attorneys, basically academia's and talkers versus innovators and problem solvers. The truth is that the jobs will be filled by foreign nationals and returning expatriates.
"But even so, the 350 "were in the wrong areas", he said, suggesting that the graduates were only skilled in single areas rather than multiple engineering disciplines. In an attempt to solve that, Pinnock said the task force is currently exploring a new area called mechatronics, which rejects splitting engineering into different fields." — Dr Pinnock
It is much better for engineers to specialise than generalise. It is clear that Dr Pinnock doesn't believe in quality, but quantity. A person trained in mechatronics has no use in Jamaica or on any ocean-going vessel. It is much easier for a ship to employ an electrician who has electronics experience. A person trained in mechatronics cannot work as a mechanical, marine, software, or electrical engineer, as he or she has not completed enough coursework in any of these fields.
Existing programmes at [CMI] and other low-funded institutions need more financial support to turn out better graduates.