As a student at Cayman Islands Center for Further Education, Zeb Bush, 16 spends three days a week in the classroom. The other two days, he’s out pounding nails, or at least something close to it.
Zeb is one of 15 students currently involved in a Public Works apprenticeship program, learning the construction trade.
“I’m doing site carpentry,” Zeb said, “installing doors, maintaining government buildings, installing locks in doors. In Cayman, there’s not really a college that does construction. So, if you can get an apprenticeship, you can get in and work your way up. It gives you a really good understanding of the construction industry.”
The program was one of many highlighted at an open house last week on the CIFEC campus.
“People don’t know what we do,” said director Delores Thompson.
The technical, vocational education and training showcase event was meant to show the public just that, she said. Visitors could take a tour of the campus and learn about programs for Year 12 students with such offerings as art, hospitality, information technology, media production, auto mechanics and more, as well as courses for improving language and math skills in preparation for the CXC exam.
The internship program in which Zeb is involved is only in its second year – last year was seen as a pilot program. It’s been successful enough that Ms. Thompson said there are plans to add an internship in water sports next year.
Monte Thornton is the assistant construction teacher at CIFEC. He said the advantage of having an apprenticeship rather than an internship is the level of training.
“They’re actually being able to learn the job that they want to get into and get hands-on experience of what that job is going to be,” Mr. Thornton said.
In the classroom, he said, students learn to produce work on paper, such as designing their own house and producing the building plans for it. In the field, they are doing work specific to the area in which they want to work, such as air conditioning, plumbing or, as in Zeb’s case, carpentry.
Levi Allen is training and development manager for Public Works and oversees the apprenticeship program.
“Public Works recognized that for years we failed to fill key roles with Caymanians,” Mr. Allen said. “This is the first construction apprenticeship (Cayman has) had. We feel Public Works should lead the way.”
He said the program is not limited to basic skills. There are plans to add an additional level of training next year to prepare apprentices to be formen. There are also avenues to pursue education in more technical fields, he said.
“We have jobs like project manager, architects, engineers,” he said.
Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly attended the showcase. She said it is important to involve the community in the education process through such events.
“For education to succeed in any country, it has to be a partnership,” she said. Once it knows what CIFEC has to offer, she added, “the private sector can go and tell the story.”
More information on CIFEC and its programs is available at schools.edu.ky/CIFEC