Trade school plan takes shape

Former government youth worker Michael Myles is in the early stages of setting up a vocational school to train Caymanians in construction, electrical, mechanics, air conditioning and other trades.

Mr. Myles has been certified as a master trainer by the U.S.-based National Center for Construction Education and Research, and plans to partner with local companies to deliver vocational training.

He has established a business, Inspire Cayman Training, and hopes to begin offering courses in July.

Mr. Myles, formerly the at-risk youth officer for government schools, and now school operations manager at Hope Academy, said government statistics showed that more than half of the people coming to Cayman on work permits are taking jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree.

He said many of those were in skilled trades that, with the right training, could provide lucrative careers for Caymanians. Citing statistics from the U.S., he said there were 30 million jobs in that country paying more than $55,000 a year that did not require a degree. He believes the picture is similar in Cayman.

“The last time I had my air conditioning fixed, I called a company and they sent a guy out for two hours and it cost me $400,” he said.

“There are people making a lot of money in the trades and we need to do more to help our young people take advantage of those opportunities. At the moment, there is limited access to accredited training programs in vocational fields.”

He said the National Center for Construction Education and Research certification system would enable students to earn a qualification that they could use to get employment in Cayman or in the U.S., where the accreditation is accepted.

He hopes to recruit two full-time staff and use industry professionals to teach specific courses. He said the NCCER approach allowed students to learn directly from people working in the trades.

“I want to bring in professionals from the industry and train them up to provide the curriculum. We have some of the best contractors in this country – plumbers, electricians, HVAC [air conditioning] technicians. That gives us a huge advantage.”

Mr. Myles is currently in negotiations over a lease agreement for a space for the training center. He said the aim was for the project to be self funding, with students paying or using government scholarships to fund their instruction.

Depending on interest, he said the course offering would include carpentry, construction, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, automotive, light repair and scuba diving. There will also be a “core curriculum” course and a “tools for success” soft skills course, which will be mandatory for all students to brush up on the basic academic and technical requirements of the trades, as well as their employability skills.

Caribbean Utilities Company already uses the same accreditation company, NCCER, for its trainee programs, and is on board as a training sponsor for Inspire Cayman Training. Mr. Myles says he is discussing further collaboration opportunities with the company. He also hopes to partner with the new Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman department to provide potential students and ensure the center is eligible for government scholarship spending.

He believes training more young people will help solve a variety of social problems.

“This isn’t something that I have just dreamt up last night,” Mr. Myles said. “It comes from multiple reports about how to deal with crime and social problems in the Cayman Islands, it comes from the ESO [Economics and Statistics Office] statistics that have highlighted where the problems are and where the solutions are. We have to look at the gaps in the employment market and position our kids to take advantage of them.”

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