Prospect candidates focussed their discussion on TVET programmes and how to get Caymanian students into trades that pay well and are in demand.
Michael Myles and Sabrina Turner participated in a debate aired on the Cayman Crosstalk radio show on Thursday. Incumbent Austin Harris did not attend.
All three candidates participated in an earlier candidates forum hosted by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.
Myles, who established the Inspire Cayman Training vocational school, said technical and vocational training is not nearly as well-funded as any other subject area.
He said the existing programmes at high schools, the Public Works Department and UCCI lack proper certification.
“It’s not even a drop in the bucket. What we have done is talked about it. We’ve talked about it for 30 years. Our public schools have no connection to the outside world. We are providing courses that are, one, not qualified, so when youngsters get out of school they can’t apply that answer because it’s not connected to a particular industry,” Myles said.
He said the Public Works Department apprenticeship centre is not a certified facility.
“It’s been in operation for 7-8 years, and is nowhere near certified because they have not done the work under the Education Law. Right now under the Education Law all TVET centres must be certified under the law. So what [incumbent Austin Harris] and them perpetuated is that they are breaking their own law. So they are offering a programme that has no connection to the Ministry of Education,” he said.
Myles said UCCI doesn’t have any TVET programmes that are internationally certified.
“Organisations want people to come in certified. They want people to come in ready to work, and that’s not what we’ve invested in. What we’ve done is simply talk abut it for 30 years, and the optics of taking pictures with kids with hats on. And they feel that’s actually going to transfer into jobs. It has not,” Myles said.
Myles said in his 2 years of operating Inspire, they have gotten 1 scholarship student from the Ministry of Education “despite me begging and pleading”.
“We should be getting loads of scholarships coming in, and in the last year we’ve had over 200 people come through our doors to get training. So we can’t say anymore that Caymanians do not want to be trained,” he said.
In response to a question posed on possible conflicts of interest, if elected, due to his positions at Hope Academy and Inspire, Myles said everything the training centre earns goes back into the programmes.
“I’m not here to make money off of government. If it was that I wouldn’t start a training centre because it doesn’t make money,” Myles said.
In her portion of the debate, Turner addressed a variety of education topics.
She said the biggest problems in the education system are segregating non-Caymanians out of public schools, and removing Sixth Form from public schools.
“We’ve given our young people nothing to aspire to be,” she said.
She said politics need to be removed from the Ministry of Education to allow it to do its job.
She said TVET courses and practical education should start at the primary level and continue through secondary school.
“Stop looking at CIFEC as an education system for the rejects. That is so wrong,” Turner said.
She said her son, for example, passed all his exams, but made the choice to go to CIFEC because he wanted a hands-on approach to education. It ended up being a good decision for him, she said, because he now has a career with a large employer on-island.