‘Being Caymanian is not enough’

Education Minister seeks wholesale UCCI reform

In
a frank address to the Legislative Assembly this week, Education Minister
Rolston Anglin criticised the University College of the Cayman Islands under
the previous government as a ‘dysfunctional institution’ that was not producing
job-ready graduates for the local workforce.

Mr.
Anglin said his ministry and UCCI President Roy Bodden were working on a reform
effort that he said would seek to redraw everything at the college, from
student admissions policies to staff and board operations.

The
minister said UCCI would perform a review to establish teaching requirements
for the university. He said it has already been provided funding for a new
technical and student vocational programme. 

UCCI
has also been given the money to hire two new vice presidents to assist Mr.
Bodden in running the institution.

The
minister sharply criticised a decision that allowed UCCI student entry
requirements to be lowered in order to boost enrolment figures. He also accused
the previous government of sacrificing programme development at the school to
in favour of getting “positive public relations” for the school.

“It
is unacceptable for employers to find graduates of UCCI who cannot do what
their certificates and degree document they should clearly be able to do,” Mr.
Anglin said. “There will be no games played on my watch where we hand out
diplomas just because a student showed up for class.”

Mr.
Anglin said Cayman cannot expect to keep importing high-wage-earning foreign
employees in hopes that some “trickle-down” effect will create a good standard
of living for Caymanians.

“But
participation cannot be forced without the merit – the real capacities – to do
the jobs,” the minister said. “Being Caymanian is not enough. We must be
Caymanians with merit.”

The
education minister said he would like to ensure that between 40 per cent and 50
per cent of students now in primary school earn some type of college degree.
For those who do not participate in tertiary education, trade schools and
additional options should be created, Mr. Anglin said.

“We
do not want nor need a Caymanian under class that has no skills and no capacity
to learn,” he said.

Moreover,
Mr. Anglin said Caymanians should not expect that the government service will
be the main provider of employment for the local population. He said the civil
service simply could not afford to employ all Caymanians.

He
said compassion for the country’s citizens should not overshadow the demand for
hard work and excellence of high school and UCCI graduates.

“High
wages without first gaining quality skills and education will not…be the norm
going forward,” he said. “We need education to be more targeted, more focused
on our futures. The certificates and diplomas that are awarded must make sense
for our economy.”

For
instance, Mr. Anglin said UCCI should not operate a school of fashion design
unless Cayman has a fashion industry based here. He said both high schools and
the university should work to coordinate school programmes with what is
required for economic development.

To
help achieve that last goal, Minister Anglin said the Department of Employment
Relations will be split up and its responsibilities placed under two separate
entities.

The
first, the Department of Labour and Pensions, will deal with all labour-related
disputes, while the second, the Human Capital Development Agency, will focus on
job placement and training initiatives.

Right
now, the employment relations department is handling some 1,000 labour cases
and has more than 900 unemployed Caymanians on its books.

“These
are sobering statistics,” Mr. Anglin said.

The
reorganisation is the work of several months, which began partly out of concern
for lack of enforcement of the National Pensions Law, and partly due to
difficulties within the employment relations department.

“Quite
frankly in May 2009 the (employment relations) department was on the verge of a
collapse,” Mr. Anglin said. “There was nothing but finger-pointing as staff
struggled just to make it through the day without incident.”

“Complaints
of the use of foul language, unprofessional, unethical and immoral behaviour
were reported to me,” he said, adding that staff troubles led to a serious drop
in productivity and ineffective services being rendered.

Those
staff complaints eventually led to the suspension – with pay – of Employment
Relations Director Lonny Tibbetts. Mr. Anglin said Mr. Tibbetts’ case is still
being reviewed and that the investigative process would be finished soon. 

Mr.
Anglin said the two separate agencies would have proper management systems and
use modern technology to assist in job placement and training of local workers.

“The
country will see marked improvements in the delivery of labour-related services
and sharp rises in the long-term prospects of successful employment and
career-building for Caymanians,” Mr. Anglin said.

1 COMMENT

  1. It is refreshing for government to be promoting effective education and recognise that it is not always easy for local businesses to employ caymanians as they are simply not qualified to do the job in question – and therefore risk damaging their business if they were to employ same. Now if the government can only be seen to be innovating the educational standards across the board and get the immigration department to be more proactive – there may be a future for increased local business with more jobs for both local and foreign workers.

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