Michael Myles is no hand wringer. Where others see problems, Cayman’s preeminent youth advocate sees possibilities.
He identifies a need, comes up with a plan to address it, gathers resources, launches into action – all while many others are still complaining about the problem.
This time, Mr. Myles, formerly government’s at-risk youth officer, now operations and development manager at Hope Academy, has targeted a need that politicians and others have been talking about for years: The lack of vocational training on island that will help local students secure decent, well-paying jobs.
How appropriate that partnering with private industry, Cayman’s No. 1 “fixer” is launching a program to teach basic auto repair. Once they graduate from the program, these students will be qualified to work as entry-level mechanics: Honorable work that pays a decent wage. Everybody wins.
The program, which is modeled on a now-defunct training scheme that once was run through the Superior Auto garage, will use classroom space at Hope Academy and the expertise of Owen Knight, who used to teach in the Superior mechanics program and now works at Hope.
The program’s new workshop will be created from a disused shipping container, which – along with tools, engines and other equipment – has been donated by private sector partners and supporters.
Once the school opens (after the program receives its accreditation through the Jamaican German Automotive School), students will be able to embark on a journey to self-sufficiency and a satisfying career. Mr. Myles told the Compass he already is thinking ahead to possible expansion that would include similar training for other in-demand skilled careers, such as cosmetology, barbering and electronics.
Running such programs costs money, of course, but Mr. Myles appears to have taken the most efficient route possible – by tapping existing resources, leveraging relationships and bringing together partners who all are invested in improving the outcome. He is hoping that students will be able to secure government scholarships to help defray the cost of the training. We agree – supporting this program would be the easiest, most cost-effective way for government to finally do something about this known workforce need.
As Mr. Myles told the Compass, “The average mechanic is not Caymanian, the average barber is not Caymanian, most waiters and bar staff are not Caymanian. These are career paths we have to open up for our people.”
“I’m not sitting around waiting for government to do anything,” he said. “If they want, they can partner with us, but if not, students will have to apply for scholarships.”
In addition to the stated curriculum, Mr. Myles’s initiative, steadfast commitment and resourcefulness all provide important lessons for Cayman’s young people (and those who are no longer so young): If you see a problem or a need, do not waste your time complaining, or wait for someone else to solve it.
None of us has to wait for government, or any other “savior” to come riding in to save us. We have an abundance of tools, resources, expertise and willingness to take on Cayman’s tough problems. We just have to stop “waiting” and start acting.