The University of the West Indies informed the region via a press release on November 19th, 2020, that it is on the verge of signing an agreement with Guyana to facilitate the training of over 20,000 nationals over the next 5 years.
I am concerned about the way this has been advanced as I see several loopholes that can be exploited for the wrong purposes. One of the major issues the APNU+AFC administration faced was placing persons who received scholarships from the Government of Guyana under the previous PPP-led administration. The major reason for this was that scholarships were awarded to persons without an assessment of the needs of the public service and thus upon the completion of their studies, many graduates could not be properly placed, if placed at all, because no Ministry or government agency had an apparent need for the skills that were attained.
The shift that is taking place in our society demands a systematic survey of the human resource needs of the public service, and the country in general. The Department of the Public Service under my stewardship created a strategic plan that required first and foremost a Human Resource Needs Assessment Survey that should have been catered for in the 2020 budget to take into consideration the following:
An appreciation of the areas in the public service that may require specific expertise to ensure that the new industries that are blossoming can be adequately serviced and regulated.
A review of all the work permits being granted would also give an indication of the skillsets needed that we do not have locally and a decision needs to be made on the most efficient approach to having our citizens acquire these skillsets. This would eventually reduce the need for companies to continue requesting the large number of permits, currently sought on a monthly basis, for foreigners to enter Guyana to take advantage of emerging job opportunities.
Research is also needed, on the potential upline and downline jobs that could be created in the short, medium and long term surrounding the oil and gas industry as well as other areas where government or Public-Private investments will be made to ensure the economy is sufficiently diversified.
The aforementioned press release states that President Ali “has identified all areas of Human Resource Development that Guyana is urgently in need of.” There are so many questions that need to be answered. How did they arrive at the number 20,000? By what process were these areas identified? Was a decision made as to how many persons are needed for each area of study? Is this eligible for only persons who want to work in the public service or will this be available to all Guyanese? What criteria will be used to determine who gets to study what programme? Will Guyanese be able to just choose their area of interest, as what obtained in the past or will there be a selection process, based on the findings of a transparently conducted needs assessment?
This leads me to my other concern which is why UWI? I have no personal problem with the University of the West Indies but one glance at the Open Campus website shows that the programmes offered are significantly limited compared to the skillsets, already established to be required. Thus, since it would cost UWI to create an array of new programmes and find new lecturers to meet our needs, we can be sure that our tax dollars would ultimately be paying for that.
This begs the question: would it not be smarter to spend our resources on our National University as well as our vocational institutions?
When it comes to the education of our society, the development of our education institutions and who has access to the educational opportunities that are made available, we all need to ensure that our tax dollars are being utilized responsibly, in an equitable manner by providing for the needs of all Guyanese. I do not have all the information, Editor, but this arrangement between Guyana and UWI clearly leaves us with more questions than answers and I hope that those of us who have an interest in the development of both our Vocational Institutions and our National University, will pay keen attention to this strange new deal.
Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, MP