A cross-section of the participants in the presentation function for workforce certificates of competence at Point Lisas, California, on Monday.
Science, Technology and Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim has said that within the next year the Government will be looking to certify all workers who are currently working without certification in garages and construction sites around the country. "We are going to find you and certify you," Karim said as he addressed the first batch of graduates of the Workforce Assessment Centres (WAC) at National Energy Skills Centre (NESC), in Point Lisas on Monday.
A total of 1,603 students enrolled at the Metal Industries Company Ltd (MIC), NESC and Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP), were presented with workforce certificates of competence, as evidence of their training and skill. The graduation took place just a year after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar first launched the WACs.
Karim said they were looking to double or even triple the number of students in the next year, as 300 recruitment trainees will be employed by the WAC to identify all those who work at garages and construction sites but are not certified. "We are going to find you and certify you. We are not going to let you miss this opportunity. No one shall be left behind," he vowed.
The minister described the graduation on Monday as a momentous occasion for the graduates, who are all skilled, but uncertified. "Though all of you may have possessed years of experience in your respective field, lack of formal qualifications would have restricted your career opportunities and led to poor professional mobility, both upwards and across all sectors," he told them.
The programme was certified through the National Training Agency (NTA). He said the graduation was timely, since technically skilled entrepreneurs and workers are in great demand in the labour market. “With over 60 per cent of our nation's workforce falling into the category of skilled but uncertified, these WACs present the answer to many who may see themselves as hopeless and helpless.
"Also, citizens who are marginalised in the labour market can now become marketable and would see greater possibilities for upward movement." While males dominated the training offered at the centres, he said many women also took the opportunity to earn certificates in masonry, automotive repair, pipe-fitting, welding and plumbing, sectors which were traditionally ruled by men.
"Young women today are entering the workforce better prepared and more ambitious than ever, with more education and higher career aspirations than men," Karim said. In addition to skills certification, Karim said Government also aims to increase the range of courses offered in academia. In this regard, he said all citizens who were marginalised and wish to increase their potential for upward mobility would now have the opportunity to do so.
"The Government that knowledge is power and knowledge and power gets you out of poverty. That is your passport," he said.