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CANQATE conference to tackle quality of tertiary education

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • UWI Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal to present on Implementing Quality Assurance Practices
  • CANQATE conference will be held on 22-24 October

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, Dr Luz Longsworth, is slated to present at the 16th Annual Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE) conference to discuss the evaluation, accreditation, and improvement of tertiary education in the region.

Addressing the topic “Implementing Quality Assurance Practices in the Caribbean Region: Opportunities and Challenges” Dr Longsworth joins keynote speakers Dr Leon Wilson — who will speak on the topic “The Regionalisation of Discipline-Specific Quality Practices: A Feasible and Desirable objective?” — and Rob May who will present on “International Credentials, Local Regulation.”

Other presenters include Registrar at the University of Guyana, Dr C Nigel Gravesande, who once served in the same capacity at the TA Marryshow College (TAMCC).

Established in 2004, CANQATE comprises external quality assurance agencies, including government ministries, state agencies, and higher education institutions. It was established to promote the development of tertiary education and to act as a conduit to promoting regional discourses on policy and programmes geared at quality assurance and quality enhancement.

The conference was last held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2018, and will be held in Grenada this year for the first time under the theme, “Creating an enabling environment for the pursuit of quality tertiary education: Opportunities and challenges.”

Pauline Finley – Executive Director of the Grenada National Accreditation Board

Pauline Finley, Executive Director, Grenada National Accreditation Board (GNAB), said there are many barriers affecting the delivery of tertiary education in the region and these barriers must be addressed. “Usually you have faculty qualifications and capacity of faculty. There are some barriers or issues related to the curriculum used at higher education institutions. There is also the issue of governance and capacity and the willingness of institutions to change as the demands of the graduates change, and then again you have the issue of access. Some student finds it very expensive to attend institutions.”

This year’s conference, she said, will provide an open discourse on strengths, threats, and challenges surrounding tertiary education. “We have quite a number of concurrent presentations, presenters will look at policies that govern institutions, they are going to talk about technical and vocational education. They are going to present their research findings and open discourse on issues as it affects graduates, institutions, and government,” she said.

Shane Mc Quilkin, Quality Assurance Officer, GNAB, said this year a lot of discussions will be centred around the quality of online education. “We really want to appease any kind of fear or hesitance that people may have that maybe in-classroom education is higher than online education, when really and truly as long as the quality is maintained, then there is really no difference between the two.”

The 16th Annual CANQATE conference will be held on 22-24 October 2019 at the Radisson Beach Resort. The conference will also provide secondary students with the opportunity to voice their concerns with regard to issues attaining tertiary education.

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Caribbean & World

NEWLO facilities to accommodate more technical skills training 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • TVET Training programmes at NEWLO after hours
  • Skills for Youth Employment funded through by Department for International Development over 4 years

In an attempt to fully utilise the facility at the New Life Organisation (NEWLO) after its usual closing hours in the evening, the Government of Grenada in conjunction with the Department for International Development (DFID) will be commencing TVET training programmes for young people in a number of on-demand skill area.

The first skills training programme, Skills for Youth Employment (SkYE) is funded by the DFID over 4 years; EC$3.3 million will cover 65% of the cost. Government is expected to fund EC$375,000 the cost associated with transportation and refreshments per year. 120 young per year people will receive training in skill areas including:

  • Furniture-Making (Level 1)
  • Cosmetology (Level 2)
  • Carpentry (Level 2)
  • Early Childhood (Level 2)
  • Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (Level 2)
  • TV and Video Production (Level 2)

SkYE is a four-year programme valued at £9.1 million designed to promote economic growth and sustainable development. Grenada is not alone in the implementation of such training since the programme is also rolled out in St Lucia, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines after eight months of research and design work.

Over 6,000 young people ages 15 to 30 are eligible for training under the SkYE programme across the aforementioned territories, which is said to improve their employability in sectors where there is evident demand for skilled workers.

The first batch of young people started training under the SkYE in October while the government is preparing to begin training of 70 adults over the age of 35 during November.

Areas of skills training include:

  • Agro-processing
  • Fabric Design
  • Hospitality Services
  • Crop Production
  • Poultry Rearing

This component of the training will be fully covered by the government and like the previous programme will be held at NEWLO. Both programmes will be held in the evening as the government realises the need to fully utilise the NEWLO facility.

“Really, what has happened at NEWLO is a second shift has been created at the institution. Many times an institution closes at 2:30 pm and the building that is filled with equipment. The doors are just closed for the rest of the day, but at NEWLO now we are having a second shift so we are now being more efficient as a country in terms of utilising our resources,” said Minister for Tertiary Education, Skill Development & Education Outreach Hon. Pamela Moses.

Minister Moses was particularly pleased since this would mean that more young people can be empowered especially young people challenged by disability. “There is one main condition that the government and NEWLO have had to accede to for this training and is that 10% of the trainees must be disabled youth, so we have met that quota. New Life Organisation is not just training our able-bodied youth but is training youth that have challenges, who are disabled in one form or the other.”

Other courses accompanying the training are computer and life skills, literacy and numeracy and Job placement training. The selection of participants under the adult component of the government-funded skills training programme has already been completed and will cost approximately $600,000 yearly. The training will run between nine and 13 months dependent upon the course undertaken.

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College Council to inform government on increments payment to TAMCC employees 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Tertiary Education Minister, Pamela Moses, said TAMCC College Council responsible for payment of increments
  • PWU demanding payment of increments of over $6 million from 2014

Interim Chairperson for the TA Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) College Council, Augustine Vesprey, had no other choice but to walk past determined protesters of the Public Workers Union (PWU) as he made his way through the Teachers Education Department moments before convening a meeting with the rest of the members of the council.

The outcome of the meeting held on Tuesday, 12 November is still not known, however, it followed the announcement made by Minister for Tertiary Education, Skill Development and Education Outreach, Pamela Moses, that the government is not responsible for paying increments demanded by the PWU; payment is the responsibility of the College Council.

Public Workers Union (PWU) members protest nonpayment of increments

The PWU is demanding payment of increments of over $6 million from 2014 when Grenada entered into a three-year Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme which forced various public sector unions to accept a freeze on increments.

“We know that our increments are a significant amount and if we allow it to continue it will build up more, so we want to ensure that this matter is settled… we have been extremely patient, we cannot be patient anymore,” said President of the PWU, Rachel Roberts.

TAMCC receives an annual subvention from the government of $14 million. It is the responsibility of the College Council to govern the operation of the institution which was established by Act No. 41 of 1996 — the TA Marryshow Community College Act — making the college a fully-fledged educational institution. However, the act was said to have stopped short of allowing the college to have full autonomy over its operations.

Roberts said the subvention received from government is inadequate and cannot support the day to day operations of the college and, since the Government of Grenada regulates the fees at the college which is heavily subsidised, the college is also unable to raise funds needed to cover its expenses, which include the payment of increments to the workers employed by the College Council. “TAMCC doesn’t have the ability to charge the true cost of any programme that a student may undertake at the institution, so therefore, TAMCC is strapped. Their hands are tied and they cannot do anything unless the government supports them.”

Public Workers Union (PWU) members protest nonpayment of increments

At the college are two categories of workers: 35 workers employed through the Public Service Commission (PSC) who are workers on secondment transferred to the college from schools and ministries, and 243 permanent workers employed by the College Council. The workers employed by the College Council are the ones demanding payment of increments since those employed through the PSC retain their status as government employees and are currently benefiting from ongoing negotiations led by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT).

Minister Moses stated at yesterday’s post-cabinet briefing that it is the responsibility of the College Council through the finance committee to make payments to those categories of workers. The College Council by law has what is known as standing committees…one of which is the finance committee and according to section 11 (2) (e) it states that the finance committee manages the funds of the college and so makes recommendations for its investment thereafter. As such the finance committee through the council if it can find savings and use it to pay increments as it sees fit… and all the council has to do is to inform government of its decision.

In light of this, cabinet has requested that the College Council submit a plan to the government detailing how it plans on paying the $6.1 million in increments.

Thus far the council has selected a sub-finance committee to meet on this matter and then later this week the council will meet with the union in an attempt to resolve the issue,” said Minister Moses.

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Two unions deadlocked with government while third close to concluding negotiations

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by Linda Straker

  • 3 trade unions represent more than 6,000 government-employed workers
  • Fiscal Responsibility Law mandates government’s wage bill cannot exceed 9% of GDP in any year
  • Talks progressing smoothly with Grenada Union of Teachers

Oliver Joseph, Head of the Government’s Negotiating Team, believes that one of the trade unions currently engaged in negotiations for the period 2020 to 2022 will conclude its negotiations before the presentation of the 2020 Budget, scheduled for 20 November.

3 trade unions are representing more than 6,000 workers employed by government. Talks with the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) which are negotiating jointly, were declared deadlocked after the third round.

“With regards to the Grenada Union of Teachers, talks are progressing smoothly. We are confident that we will soon reach a settlement given the significant movement by both sides,” Joseph said when he provided an update on the situation during the weekly Tuesday post-cabinet briefing.

“We are at the stage with the GUT where we think that before the end of this week we can conclude the negotiations and sign an agreement because of the cordial way in which the negotiations took place, and the willingness of the union negotiators to reach a settlement with government, understanding the fiscal rules,” Joseph said.

Grenada’s Houses of Parliament in 2013 approved several legislations aimed at maintaining sustainable public finances, ensuring fiscal policy assist with economic growth and maintain appropriate levels of public investment. These laws came into effect as of 2014.

“We are negotiating now under different conditions. We have taken a decision, we have passed laws — Fiscal Responsibility Law, Public Finance Management Act — all of which binds the government into a framework. So, we are negotiating within the framework agreement,” Joseph said and called on the unions who are currently in deadlock to respect the law of the land.

“The approach to this negotiation must be fact-based, based on facts and on the evidence,” said Joseph who also serves as Minister for Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Caricom Affairs.

“The fiscal responsibility law also has what it calls fiscal space. In considering what the award will be for public sector unions that must be taken into consideration,” said the minister who explained that within that space, government has to find money to do all other programmes.

The Fiscal Responsibility Law mandates that government’s wage bill cannot exceed 9% of GDP in any year while the primary expenditure rule says that the government cannot exceed 2% more than the previous year.

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