Resident columnist Dickson Igwe

A national apprenticeship program for vocations and skills is essential for Virgin Islands youth, society, and economy

It is cliché to assert that a plumber, electrician, builder, welder, or mechanic, great at their skill, will not face too many unemployment challenges.

Some of the most illustrious and prosperous natives in these Lesser Antilles are in the vocations. In fact, and historically, the majority of the workforce is in the vocations, or started out there.

Now, a technically skilled workforce is a boon for any economy. A vocationally skilled workforce increases the productivity of the economy. The vocations are critical to a country’s standard of living, and quality of life matrices. A technically and vocationally sufficient workforce increases a country’s competitiveness and GDP. That is an unassailable assertion observing the growth of industrial economies.

In fact, one of the factors crippling UK recovery at this time of pandemic and economic recession is the abandonment over the decades of the vocations and manufacturing, for a white collar ‘’spiv’’ culture, with its stress on retail and financial services.

Plumber man fixing kitchen sink. Photo courtesy

A young man or woman with a vocational skill and work experience from an apprenticeship program will find employment faster than a student who is purely academic or scientific. The latter will eventually find work and may earn more money, but the skilled or vocationally trained will enjoy better tenure owing to the fact they have the work experience and are technically and vocationally skilled.

That is why the call for a national apprenticeship program.

Equipping Natives and residents with vocational and technical skills offers teenagers and young adults a bright future. This has become an epiphany in rich countries in the North where the value of a vocational education is in the ascendance.

And a well-trained skilled workforce will negate the need for alien labour and equip the business community with the skill sets required to drive efficiency and productivity. A vocationally sound workforce will create a stronger community and better society.

The incidences of deviancy and criminality among youth will diminish as students and young people are occupied during apprenticeship hours learning the skills and work cultures of the maritime industry, sustainable tourism, and all the vocational learning required for a functioning and sustainable internal market economy.

Consequently, the call is made to national leadership to view a national apprenticeship program as vital to the social and economic future of these Lesser Antilles. 

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