Features — 23 January 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Belize plans to adopt regional VOTECH certification scheme

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Jan. 16, 2015–David Leacock, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, has pointed out that some of Belize’s professionals who are trained in vocational and technical (VOTECH) fields earn as much as double what is earned by other professionals with a similar level of training, but more than that, he explained that VOTECH options allow Belizeans to “shoa wi self, see wi self, bee wi self!,” as KREM TV’s slogan says.

The problem is, though, that Belize lacks the structural framework to allow practitioners, and even their trainers, to get the kind of certification they need to flourish. However, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has embarked on a comprehensive strategy that Leacock said would fill the gaps that exist at so many levels but which will, moreover, ensure that Belizeans who receive VOTECH training here can compete with any other trained persons across CARICOM, because of the regionally recognized qualifications and certifications that will eventually be available to them.

It is in this vein that roughly 30 educators and other education stakeholders from across the country met for two weeks at the Belize Biltmore Plaza for a curriculum training and development exercise organized by the Ministry of Education under the program, Improving Quality and Relevance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Belize, funded to the tune of a million dollars by the European Union’s Banana Accompanying Measures Programme (BAM).

Leacock explained that the initiative is part of the education sector strategy, which focuses on aligning the curriculum with occupational standards, and the plan is to integrate VOTECH training into the high school curriculum to ensure that young people are exposed to such training at that level.

Leacock noted that there is already some integration by mainstream high schools, and in Belize City, students from Sadie Vernon High School, Maud Williams High School, Nazarene High School and Wesley College take classes at the ITVET. He said that in Toledo, students from Julian Cho Technical High School also take classes at the ITVET in Toledo, and similar arrangements exist in the northern part of the country.

“We are going to continue to encourage this and formalize it with the reform of the curriculum in secondary education,” the CEO said.

He noted that Belize needs to be on par with regional standards because of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

He said that the regional qualification will have currency across the Caribbean. Belize is preparing for that, to certify persons with the Caribbean Vocation Qualification (CVQ). The level 1 and 2 CVQ would be at the high school level, while level 3 would be the equivalent of an associate degree, level 4 would be at the level of a bachelor’s degree, and level 5 would correspond to post-grad qualifications.

The Caribbean Examinations Council awards CVQs in areas such as agro-food processing, carpentry, tourism, early childhood development, electrical installation, fabric design, fish handling and processing, general cosmetology, housekeeping, masonry, motor vehicle repairs, photography, upholstery, welding, bamboo weaving and jewelry-making.

Leacock told the press that they are developing a national human resource development strategy, which would focus on aligning available training with the job opportunities that exist, in order to meet the needs on the market.

We’ve reported on concerns raised by VOTECH teachers over the lack of professional training for them in Belize, a situation which has meant that the vast majority of them have been unable to get their full teaching licenses. Leacock told us that the ministry plans to offer training to these trainers as early as this year.

He said that this was one of the activities done during the week, to develop a training program for VOTECH instructors. A consultant had been engaged to initiate design works, and the CEO said that they anticipate that they will be able to start with the training later this year.

Margarita Gomez, the head of the ministry’s Employment Training and Education Services, explained that, “…these past two-week activities has been the alignment of the national curricula with the regional occupational standards.”

Gomez said that on Friday, they were celebrating what they had accomplished over the past two weeks of activities, but were cognizant that the work is not totally finished.

She said that the level of commitment from the technical high school instructors and the instructors from ITVETS from across the country has been very high, and they pledged their commitment to continue working beyond the two weeks, as they continue with the efforts to improve VOTECH education around the country.

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