GLEANER: In the 10 months since it was launched, the Centre of Occupational Studies (COS) in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has generated much praise from participants who see windows of opportunities in their chosen career paths.
Among recent testimonials received from students was one from Tanya Lewis, who is enrolled in the Fitness Management at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education.
"I'm so happy for the opportunity I got to develop myself in this area, and with my love for sports, along with my nursing background, I know that I am at the right place to become an instructor or physiotherapist."
Synovia Lescene, who is training to be a spa concierge, said: " My dream is to always have a wide knowledge base of the body, and eventually, as a trained massage therapist, to be competitive in the market and branch out on my own. I was filled with enthusiasm when I got the call to be a fitness expert. I must say I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to contribute positively to my economy."
Otenza Larmond, a special needs educator model and massage therapist, says: "I was told that if I want something, I need to believe that it is mine and ensure that I put in the work to attain it. I believe strongly in the laws of attraction or faith. I was working abroad and totally hated the experience and wanted to come home but didn't know what I would do if I came back. Then, boom! I was informed by my colleagues that I was selected for a scholarship and that I needed to send in all my necessary paperwork to ensure that I could benefit. Now, I'm basking in happiness because I feel so content with the amazing future this associate degree will afford me. Thank you, COS, you'll be seeing great things from me. Promise."
Rose-Marie Senior Sergeon, massage and beauty therapist and entrepreneur, said: "The programme has been quite interesting as the curriculum outline covers a wide-range of topics than I have encountered previously. The course has exposed me to what it means to be a well-rounded individual. The most interesting modules to me are psychology, fitness methods, and client documentation. Though the course work is heavy, the resources are there to facilitate us, and for this I am very grateful. I am very happy to be selected for this Associate Degree in Fitness Management. There are no programmes without challenges, and I believe that with our continued communication and team work, we will be a successful group."
For a long time, Jamaica has not offered enough programmes at the tertiary level that could adequately address this need.
Recognising this need and in pursuit of a lifelong passion for people to develop their skills and advance professionally, Dr Cecil Cornwall, chairman of the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education, conceptualised and mobilised efforts to realise the potential of higher-level education through occupational studies.
Cornwall, a stalwart and veteran contributor to the hospitality industry and higher education in Jamaica, sought the support of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and other public and private entities, locally and internationally.
The idea of this integration into the tertiary framework was endorsed by the ministry and cemented the beginning of classical academic training merged with competency-based vocational training, giving birth to what we today call occupational studies. Consequently, the Centre of Occupational Studies, which now resides within the MOEYI, was formally established in July 2016 after being in development for over a year.
The Centre of Occupational Studies is tasked with providing a clear and disciplined approach to the establishment of occupational degrees commencing with the occupational associate degrees. An occupational degree is a specialised industry approved degree that focuses specifically on technical and vocational studies. It integrates academic and vocational study, allowing for holistic student-centered learning.
The occupational degree certification was designed to bridge the gap between traditional and technical vocational education and training (TVET) education at the tertiary and secondary levels. This new model affords, and will continue to afford, TVET graduates holding the National Vocational Qualification for Jamaica or Caribbean Vocational Qualification (Level Two, Three and Four) to access the advanced occupational skill programme.
The occupational degree brands itself with sharp competitive edge through its competency-based approach to dynamic delivery and ongoing assessment. The degree is complemented by aligned industry and professional certification and licensing.
In the national development plan for Jamaica as documented in the 2030 National Development Plan for Jamaica, the development of the Jamaican workforce is defined as "one of the critical drivers for national development, economic growth, and sustainability to make the vision of Jamaica the place to do business, work, live, and raise families" a reality.
The recently expounded economic growth strategy of the Government of Jamaica is integrally linked to the key roles of education and training in the development of Jamaica. In December 2016, Minister of Education Ruel Reid shared the vision of every working-age Jamaican to have degree-level certification by age 30 and that of occupational certification. This position is in keeping with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information's policy that competence based education and training be infused in the provision of the services of the education and training sectors.
INSTITUTIONS OFFERING OCCUPATIONAL DEGREES
- Western Hospitality Institute
- Brown's Town Community College
- G.C. Foster College of Physical Education & Sport, Spanish Town
- Bethlehem Moravian College, Malvern
- College of Agriculture
- Excelsior Community College
- Caribbean Maritime Institute
- Portmore Community College
- Northern Caribbean University
- Vocational Training Development Institute
- Mico University College
- University of Technology
- University of the Commonwealth Caribbean
- Article courtesy of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.