Education Ministry Introduces Associate Degree in Occupational Studies
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI), in an effort to boost Jamaica’s skilled workforce, has introduced a new Associate Degree in Occupational Studies to enhance its Upskilling and Retooling programme.
Launched in December 2016, by the Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, the Associate Degree aims to create higher-learning opportunities for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students.
The programme was developed under the direction of the Centre of Occupational Studies (COS) in the Education Ministry and is in response to the demands of the workplace.
Areas of training include logistics, business process outsourcing (BPO), knowledge process outsourcing, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and renewable energy technology.
Speaking with JIS News, Chairman of the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE), Dr. Cecil Cornwall, says that the degree was created to offer a wide variety of industry-specific training at the tertiary level.
“What makes it different from other degree programmes, is that it is not purely academic in nature, but focuses on applying the knowledge and skills being taught to real life situations… making it easier for students to transition into the world of work,” he says.
The Programme also seeks to increase and diversify the product offerings to include skills-based Competency Based Education and Training (CBET) in Tertiary institutions; use the CBET methodology to create the holistic employee at the supervisory level, so as to engender economic growth and sustainability at the micro and macro levels; and to strengthen the integration of TVET in the general education system by integrating efforts with tertiary providers to allow for increased articulation.
In addition, the programme also features opportunities to study overseas, industry certification and licensure, specialised industry-related courses, enrichment seminars and professional development activities, and personal development and growth.
Learners who possess NVQ-J and CVQ certification at levels two and three and the Career Advancement Programme (CAP), also at levels two and three, automatically matriculate to pursue the two-year programme that is being offered in more than 15 institutions. Meanwhile, Dr. Cornwall says the Associate Degree is industry-driven, industry-approved and focuses primarily on technical/vocational studies geared directly at workplace studies and employment.
“The programme has been quite interesting, as the curriculum outline covers a wide range of topics that I have never encountered before, and has exposed me to what it means to be a well-rounded individual,” he notes.
He also advises that the Associate Degree has adopted the American ACCUPLACER test, which is used to determine the level of skill and competence in mathematics, reading, and English.
He explains that the American ACCUPLACER system tests the skills of the students, and where they fall short, the programme would have the necessary system in place that will take them from foundation level to college level.
“When they complete the two years of studies, they would have also internationalised their education, because they are leaving with stackable credentials and several industry certifications. This gives them access to international internship programmes overseas to gain exposure, but most importantly, they are getting local and international industry certification, which the traditional tertiary graduates do not have,” he says.
For her part, Director of the Centre of Occupational Studies in the MOEYI, Linda Stewart Doman, tells JIS News that as Jamaica advances its work agenda, there is a need to harness human capital development.
“There is a social demand for education and training globally and for productive skilled citizenry across the world. It is very important that we understand that an educated and trained nation is a productive nation, and a productive nation is a prosperous nation,” she says. She notes that the programme was piloted in January 2017 with an enrolment of 457 students, covering 17 curricula, which is in accordance with labour market intelligence data as well as the growth agenda of the Government.
In the meantime, Massage and Beauty Therapist, and student in the Fitness Management Programme at G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, Rose- Marie Senior Sergeon, says she is happy to have been selected for the programme.
“Though the coursework is heavy, the resources are there to facilitate us, and for this I am so grateful. I am very happy to have been selected for this Associate Degree in Fitness Management.
There are no programmes without challenges, and I believe that with our continued communication and teamwork, my cohort will be a successful group,” she states.
The Associate Degree in Occupational Studies is offered at the Caribbean Maritime University, Excelsior Community College, College of Insurance and Professional Studies, Shortwood Teachers’ College, The Mico University, University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC), and University of Technology (UTech) Academy in Kingston; Western Hospitality Institute, St. James; Brown’s Town Community College, St. Ann; College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland; G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, and Portmore Community College in St. Catherine; Northern Caribbean University (NCU), Manchester; Bethlehem Moravian College, St. Elizabeth; and the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI) in Kingston and Manchester.