Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, speaking at a stakeholder consultation for the skills needs assessment for the agriculture and fisheries sectors at the Savannah Beach Hotel on Monday. (B.Hinds/BGIS)

Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, has proffered the view that the island’s future economic recovery is hinged on revitalised and strategically developed agriculture and fisheries sectors, operating to international standards.

She made the suggestion while addressing a stakeholder consultation for the Skills Needs Assessment for Agriculture and Fisheries sectors at Savannah Beach Hotel on Monday.

The Minister reasoned that this recovery “required the sector to be set within an enabling environment that is, in part, characterised by the supply of the right mix of human capital that has relevant skills and competencies that would increase the productivity and competitiveness of agricultural enterprises”.

“It would also require an environment that continually promotes and nurtures the youth’s involvement in farming, fishing and agro-processing as a means of sustaining the growth of the sector,” Senator Dr. Byer Suckoo added.

The Minister said at present, there is limited information on the current supply of farmers and other relevant agents in the agriculture and fisheries sectors.  It is also unclear, Senator Byer Suckoo added, how many farmers received any formal training in agricultural science, the skills set required of livestock farmers versus crop producers, their educational background and whether any specific education and training opportunities were needed.

“There is limited information on labour market needs and skills deficits. Do the farmers and fishermen have all the skills necessary to efficiently run their operations? As employers, is production compromised by the unavailability of certain competencies in the pool of workers available? Given advances in aquaponics and other non-traditional farming methods, green energy, or even animal genetics, are there any skills needed by agricultural producers to embrace these advances in technology?”  the Labour Minister queried.

In this regard, the Senator said the skills needs assessment was just one of the initiatives her Ministry would employ to promote a demand-driven education and training system under the Barbados Human Resource Development Programme.

“Previously, small stakeholder consultations provided some guidance on the trends and developments in the sector and emerging skills needs. However through this initiative and also through employer surveys conducted under the Ministry of Education’s Skills for the Future Project, we have sought to target a wider cross-section of stakeholders to better identify the needs of employers and the markets in general,” she added.

The Labour Minister expressed the hope that this research would inform the decisions of education and training providers, both formal and informal, on programme planning, curriculum design and programme delivery.

During the session, stakeholders were presented with findings from consultants Hans Bekkers, Jehroum Wood and Ann Southall.

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