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Gain An Edge: Creating The Next Generation Of Problem Solvers

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Fashion Design student, Shanique Rolle, drafts a 12-gored skirt during a skirt making class.

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Carpentry instructor, Graham Thornley, explains a concept to a student.

Technical and Vocational Education also involves transferable skills through academic study, as the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute explains . . .

A huge part of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) involves academics that focus on being innovative and solving problems. Simply put: TVET is not solely hands on.

The very nature of TVET integrates Math and Science concepts into the instruction. In fact, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) are integral in preparing students for TVET, which transfers into 21st century skills. Such skills bolster the country’s human capital, which in turn has the ability to turn economies around.

Some students choose TVET because they expect plenty of hands-on experience. However, before gaining experience in a laboratory or workshop, they must possess basic Math and English skills - transferable skills, no matter the career path.

There is hope, though, for prospective students who have not passed Math and English at the national level. The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) provides a placement exam that assesses their level in the subjects. Depending on the results, they are placed in the tech prep programme (similar to college prep), and once completed, they move into their programme of study.

Recently, BTVI’s Math department initiated a visionary approach to getting students more engaged in the subject. For about eight weeks, students of Archilene O’Brien’s class enrolled in ALEKS, a powerful artificial-intelligence based assessment tool that zeroes in on the strengths and weaknesses of a student’s mathematical knowledge. It reports the findings to the student and then helps improve the student’s knowledge of Math via technology.

Royston Jones, a Carpentry major, attests to the importance of the basic principles of Math; it makes the learning process at BTVI easier for him.

“Carpentry has a lot to do with measurement. You have to process things when measuring. You’re taking away and adding while working. You don’t want errors in carpentry. Even in plumbing and electrical, you have to measure precisely. You need basic Math and Science and English brings it all together,” he said.

BTVI’s Dean of Construction and Mechanical Trades, Alexander Darville, said that with the demand from industry, it is incumbent upon the institution to ensure it continues to churn out students who have the fundamentals of Math and English. Even science is imbedded in trades like cosmetology and heating ventilation and air conditioning.

Mr Darville added that the global economy demands employees be able to apply technical reading and writing skills in a dynamic workplace.

“If cement mix needs part water and sand to get a desired effect, you must know measurement. Also, you must be able to read scanned tools and interpret computer language. If not, you are crippled. The days of analogue readings have changed to digital readings,” said Mr Darville.

These skills noted by Mr Darville are required in our knowledge-based economy, where adaptability is vital. This dual approach to TVET attracts the high flyers, as well as those who are more hands on. Certainly, a TVET education translates into employability for both.

Essentially, TVET creates problem solvers - students who are able to trouble shoot and analyse problems. This is imperative, as the work environment is constantly evolving with the introduction of new equipment. Hence, in the ideal TVET classroom, it is not about teaching students how to operate a specific piece of equipment; it is about teaching concepts and skills that reinforce technology and the application of that knowledge.

• “Gain An Edge” is a weekly collaboration of the Lyford Cay Foundations, Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute and University of The Bahamas aimed at promoting a national dialogue on higher education. To share your thoughts, email gainanedge@tribunemedia.net. Gain an Edge returns on January 9.

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