Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 2nd 2017 Contents O
ver the course of
the last weekend,
thousands of uni-
were ushered out
of the sheltered
academic system, and thrust into
the “real world.”
Many will no doubt discover—
possibly harshly—that they are
ill-prepared for what the world of
work has to offer.
The rise of the “tertiary edu-
cated class” in T&T over the last
decade and a half has been noth-
ing short of phenomenal.
It has, however, brought with
it some interesting outcomes that
few have explored in any great de-
Those in corporate T&T are
often shocked by what emerges
from the academic system.
Many find it incomprehensi-
ble that what students claim to
have learned, they do not actu-
ally know, and view the academic
“arms race” as producing a sense
of entitlement among those who
venerate their degrees.
There is also something else
quite strange that has also taken
place: in a country that has pro-
duced thousands of “highly ed-
ucated” graduates, how is it that
productivity has actually been
Outside of the many issues
surrounding the relationship be-
tween academia and the corpo-
rate world, this has perhaps been
the greatest travesty.
Since the advent of the GATE
programme in 2004, over 194,000
individuals have benefited from its
existence. Additionally, in excess
of $5.58 billion has been spent on
producing finer minds.
One of the main ideas behind
any government-funded tertiary
education programme hinges on
the notion that creating opportu-
nities for academic advancement
translates into a more educated
labour force and, by extension, a
more productive one.
In the context of our twin-island
republic, and given the level of ex-
penditure on tertiary education,
has this been the case?
According to data from the
Ministry of Finance’s Review of
the Economy (ROE) and reports
from the Employers Consultative
Association (ECA), labour force
productivity has been trending
For example, as recently as
2016, the ROE says “During the 12-
month fiscal 2015 period, the All
Items Productivity Index, which
measures the productivity of all
workers in all industries in T&T,
fell by 1.4 per cent.”
Even in years when there has
been a slight uptick in produc-
tivity, it grew at a declining rate.
Further, an ECA seminar on ab-
senteeism in the workplace in
2015 showed that T&T had the
fifth highest absenteeism rate in
Viewed holistically, one is left to
wonder if GATE— as an instrument
of development—has, on balance,
improved the world of work in
In fact, by overproducing grad-
uates with skills that aren’t ideally
suited for the local economic and
corporate demands, it may have
hindered national advancement
since the State has had to come in
and employ those with no natural
employability in the private sector.
The On-the-Job (OJT) training
programme is possibly the most
glaring example that illustrates the
problem: not only has the govern-
ment paid for a graduate’s educa-
tion, but it is now paying a salary
to keep said graduate employed—a
financial double whammy.
Having thousands of mem-
bers of the labour force locked
away in these make-work type
employed—is quite obviously a se-
rious drag on productivity.
The problem runs even deeper.
Few graduates who have ben-
efited from GATE (either at the
undergraduate or post-grad level)
have pursued the path of entre-
The tertiary education system
seems to be producing, for want of
a better word, “smarter drones”.
In an increasingly innovative
global environment, and with so
many local problems desperate
for non-traditional entrepreneur-
ial solutions, one is left to question
why more graduates aren’t as in-
terested in building companies as
they are in working for them.
The private sector is built on
risk-taking and enterprise.
Further, those who no longer
see themselves as being use-
ful members of the T&T labour
force often pack up and leave our
cation in toe.
This could have a net beneficial
effect if perhaps, a remittance cul-
ture (as obtains in countries like
Jamaica and the Dominican Re-
public) existed in T&T.
Taking all of this into account, it
appears that educators, employ-
ers and graduates are not all on
the same page —a real spoke in the
wheel of productivity.
s daunting as the
appear, some sim-
designed to en-
sure that the
world of academia and corporate
T&T begin speaking the same lan-
guage could yield some meaning-
As an initial step to creating a
fit, it might perhaps be wise to
have professionals and professors
work together to bridge the gap
between the education we have,
versus the education we need—
inclusive of the development of
The private sector is ideally
equipped to lead the way since
corporate success often rests on
the pillars of communication, col-
laboration, creativity and critical
thinking; skills which, sadly, our
tertiary education institutions
have not been very good at pro-
Additionally, making learners an
integral part of the conversation,
and immersing them in the “real
world” so they get proper informa-
tion about the education they can
get and what the job market really
needs is vital.
Learners and employers have to
step into each other’s worlds.
All told, part of solving the
productivity gap may very well
involve bridging this communica-
Thursday, November 2, 2017
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and the private sector
Has more improved performance?
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