Earlier this month Tatiana Ow graduated from the Inspire Cayman trade school and began her first day on the job at Corporate Electric.
After completing the Tools for Success course, she is undergoing an apprenticeship at the company, focussing initially on learning to design schematics for mechanical, engineering and plumbing systems in new buildings.
Ow says she has always been interested in engineering but had never pursued it as a career till spending some time at the trade school.
She is one of 400 graduates to come through the programme since the inception of Inspire Cayman, which has moved to a new location in Grand Harbour to accommodate a growing number of students.
Myles said Ow’s apprenticeship with Corporate Electric is an example of the hidden opportunities that exist for young Caymanians.
Though the school teaches technical programmes, from scuba divemaster to auto mechanics, he said a significant part of its work was teaching job-readiness skills and opening students’ eyes to the potential of careers in trades. He said the diversity of careers in construction and development was beyond what many people imagined.
He said his initial intent had been to focus on trade skills and certifications.
While that remains a key part of the plan, Myles said employers had consistently told him they were willing to hire and train people, so long as they turned up with the right attitude.
He said companies like Corporate Electric and other firms that have partnered with the school were looking for people who were willing to learn, would turn up on time and have a diligent approach to work.
He believes there is no shortage of jobs in Cayman and he wants people to see the opportunities that exist beyond banking and accountancy.
“As we open up the borders, we are going to see a slew of people coming into the country. We have more work than we have people. What we want is for people to start looking at career paths. “We want young people to realise that construction is more than a hammer and a nail and working all day in the hot sun.”
He said there were many opportunities, in design for example, that went beyond the stereotype of working on construction sites.
Dave Johnston of Corporate Electric and the president of the Cayman Contractors Association, said recruiting and retaining talent was a priority for his firm and for the industry in general.
He said Ow would be learning design tools like AutoCAD before being put to work.
“Tatiana has a golden opportunity. However much she wants to learn, we can train her.”
He said the industry does need qualified specialists and he believes more clarity is needed for local jobseekers to know the accepted certifications required to get the technical skills to have advanced careers in various trades.
But he said the firm had capacity to take on apprentices who could learn on the job and train online as they advance their careers.
“The industry requires skilled workers. Quality work requires that people take the time to learn. Be patient and start at a level and build from there. You need a solid foundation to grow in any profession,” he said.
“After that it is all about a person’ s drive. This generation has been afforded a luxury that we never had. They are able to learn online and that opens up all kinds of opportunities.”
Myles would like to see his work-readiness programmes adopted in schools. He believes children need to be taught about careers and the core skills needed for the working world at a much earlier age.
He said he spent a lot of his time “reprogramming” people who had developed bad habits or had never been taught good ones. Longer term, he believes facilities like Inspire Cayman should be providing specific skills training and certification for school-leavers who come ready and equipped with the basics from their high-school education.
“The government should be spending three times what I am spending; we should be introducing this to kids from a very young age,” he said,
Many of Inspire Cayman’s recent students have attended the school on scholarships from Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman or the R3 Foundation.
“The idea is to get them ready for apprenticeships or full-time employment,” said Myles.
Ow said she was glad she had taken the Tools for Success and Financial Peace courses.
“The course helped me because it was designed to train Caymanians to get a job and to maintain it,” she said. “It teaches you a variety of things, it teaches you about criticism, how to give it, how to take it, how to dress for work.”