Meaningful Vocational Education in Times of Uncertainty

This year, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology celebrated its 50th Anniversary of being the educational juggernaut on the hill. Barbados has watched this premier institution grow from its humble beginnings at the Deep Water Harbour, to its formidable self in Wildey. The institution has weathered economic depressions and an unpredictable Caribbean climate, never once waning in its ability to meet the needs of its local and regional clients. SJPI has also managed to create a quality educational product that meets the needs of the rapidly changing 21st century, which has thrust vocational education into the limelight with its academic peers.

The twenty-first century has brought with it many profound changes to every sector of society, but none so profound as the change engendered in technical and vocational education. In Barbados, this sector of education has historically been seen as the veritable stepsibling to academia and the place where individuals less academically inclined were sent to develop a skill, in an effort to gain employment. Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) have tasked those pursuing vocational education with creating and using innovative measures to help resolve the problems within the economy, as well as to improve the quality of life of the country’s human resources.

In keeping with this mandate, the institution has adopted the vision statement “…to be a global centre of excellence for technological and vocational education and training.” In 2017, the institution decided to overtly express their vision by undergoing a name change from Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, to the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology. This change was significant as it heralded a change of mindset about the institution being just for individuals who were good with their hands but not academically inclined, to one that embraced and encouraged a combination of both theoretical and practical knowledge of the individual’s chosen skill.

Furthermore, the institution has made several strides in their quest to live up to the mandates imposed by the MDGs, and their vision statement by undertaking a period of modernization and transformation. These included the modification of several labs to create a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Lab; a Live Sound Technology Lab; and a Fibre Optics Lab. Currently, SJPI is in the process of further modernization through planned transformation of the Micro Computer Technology Lab, Autotronics Lab, Garment Technology and CNC Lab to accommodate the Institution’s growing course offerings. Moreover, it has made 21st century changes to the infrastructure, providing charging stations for electrical vehicles, as well as modernizing its library to a state-of-the-art facility. Twenty-first century changes have not been relegated to programme offerings and infrastructure alone, but includes the building of staff capacity to better cater to its clients.  This is especially in the wake of the recent addition of the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) to join the institution’s existing offerings. 

SJPI, in its quest to remain relevant and deliver a quality product, has formed partnerships with a number of institutions. Recently the institution gained funding from the International Development Bank (IDB), for four new courses to be unveiled in 2020. These courses are Drone Assembly, Operations and Maintenance; Hybrid and Electric-Powered Vehicles; Photovoltaic Installation; 3-D Printing; and 3-D Body Scanning for Pattern Making. 

As the Principal, in his address in the Commemorative 50th Anniversary booklet stated, “These are exciting times” at SJPI. This mindset serves the country well since according to Cornelia Pieper (former German Minister of State),“TVET shapes people’s identity and people’s life. It empowers individuals to participate as active members of society. TVET also has peace-building effects.” This ideal has become contagious and the institution has continued to bring vocational education from virtual obsolescence, to being a force to be reckoned with in the educational sphere. The Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology will continue to strive for excellence, relevance, and sustainability, supporting the country’s economic position into the institution’s next 50 years of existence.