Last update: 11-Dec-2013 3:23 pm
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim is seeing a new phenomenon developing—tertiary level students are now pursuing two first degrees, rather than moving on to a masters or doctoral degree. Karim said the trend was a “bothersome and counterproductive” one which must be addressed. Speaking at his office at Tower C, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday, Karim said, “As a small country with limited resources we have to maximise the investment of the taxpayer dollar in our students.
We are having a phenomenon now, where students are graduating with a first degree out of our institutions and going back to do another first degree, rather than go to the next level, which is the masters, post-doctoral or doctoral levels.” Karim said the students pursue the second degrees for two reasons: they can’t land jobs in the field after graduating, or later realised “that it was not the degree they wanted to do in the first place.”
As his ministry tries to compile data on this new phenomenon, Karim said one tertiary institution had over 300 students pursuing agri business management, a field that has few job openings at the Agricultural Development Bank or the National Agricultural Marketing Development Company. “We are seeing also an oversupply in humanities,” he disclosed.
This problem, Karim said, was being worked out through the Jobs Report, which was launched last year. The report informs the ministry of current and future jobs that are available. Karim said through career guidance and advisories they have been “advising students what they should be pursuing in their tertiary studies as opposed to waiting.” He said the ministry was also trying to help graduates who have left the tertiary system but are unable to obtain jobs because of lack of work experience.
Graduates are now placed at private and public institutions through the On the Job Training Programme, where they receive training in their field for two years before moving on in the world of work. He said the University of T&T (UTT), College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts (Costaatt) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) are now placing emphasis on priority sectors, starting with maritime, followed by energy, creative arts, ITC and manufacturing, which have the potential to generate jobs in the near future.
Receiving $3.4 of the $9 billion in the 2014 budget (the largest slice of the fiscal package), Karim gave the assurance that every cent that is expended at his nine agencies for the next fiscal year will be properly accounted for. The $3.4 billion Karim received represents 5.5 per cent of the $61.3 billion budget presented by Finance Minister Larry Howai on September 9. Last year, Karim’s ministry was allocated $3.1 billion. Karim said his ministry has always maintained a clean bill of health.
Reflecting on last year’s projects—the biggest being the UWI South campus, which Cabinet had approved at a cost of $509 million—Karim said while a lot was done, “there is always room for improvement.” Giving a breakdown of how he intends to spend the money, Karim said the UWI South campus would absorb the biggest chunk. So far, the Government has pumped $271 million into the campus, with $238 million to be spent in 2014.
Panama Canal will have implications for T&T
Another area Karim said could not be ignored was the widening and dredging of the US$5 billion Panama Canal to accommodate a new class of supersized cargo ships known as the Post Panamax by 2015.
“This will have implications for us as we are almost open arms to the Panama Canal across the Caribbean Sea. I am asking the University of T&T (UTT) to work with the other line ministries, mainly Planning and Development, Tourism and Finance to see what are the skills set that are required to service the expanded Panama Canal.” Karim said UTT’s Maritime Campus in Chaguaramas must be able to prepare human resources to work on these ships. He said jobs will be offered in many areas.
Karim said from 2005 to 2012, one institution received $50.3 million under the Higher Education Research Fund (HERF) for research, of which there was little to show. Cabinet, Karim said, recently agreed to place the HERF under his ministry to make it accessible to more institutions. “Institutions and universities would now be able to use part of that fund to increase research and development. Research must be in the realm of productivity and prosperity.
I propose to ask the various persons who would have engaged in various research to tell us the abstract findings of that research.”
Projects to be completed in 2014
•UTT main campus, Tamana—$1.86 b
•Ytepp Waterloo Training Facility—$14.2 m
•Skills and Technology Centre Penal/Debe—$27.9 m
•Hall of Residence at NESC—$6 m
•Expansion of Academy for Nursing and Allied Health, El Dorado—$18.9 m
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