If Prime Minister the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley QC MP achieves her vision, Barbadians will exude excellence and confidence in every endeavour and have palpable pride in being citizens of Barbados.
In February 2020, in articulating her broad vision for the National Training Initiative (NTI), she said: “We’re trying to put in the hands of the National Training Initiative significant sums into being able to train and retrain everybody. I’m not an HR expert so here’s how I explain it: What does excellence look like? Define it, train to it, and certify to it, if you can, and monitor the habit of excellence.”
Responsibility for translating that vision into reality is vested in Director, Dr. Allyson Leacock, who recently unveiled the initiative to the Barbadian public. Dr. Leacock holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (Double First Class Honours) in English and Education and a Diploma in Education (Dip. Ed with Distinction) from Stirling University, Scotland, UK, and Master of Arts (with Distinction) and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Educational Technology from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
She has made wide contributions to national and regional development through her leadership in the public, private and third sectors. As Officer-in-charge of the University of the West Indies’ Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC) in the nineties, she also supported UWI’s efforts to become a dual mode university through its regional implementation of distance learning education, which has now evolved into its own Open Campus ((UWIOC).
She explained: “The NTI’s mission is to equip every Barbadian in the Informal, Third and Private sectors with the knowledge, skills and values to be citizens of good character and competence in a digital world. That mission rests in our overall vision of fashioning a confident, conscious, creative, community-minded citizen empowered to be an active contributor to achieving excellence in a Smart Barbados engaging the world.
“This bold, uncompromising task that the NTI has been set,” she added, “is not an option but an imperative for us as a people and a country. It is one which we feel equipped to deliver as a team on behalf of our fellow citizens. The vision that created the NTI understands that we can no longer rely on traditional modes of education and training if we are to distinguish ourselves as a small island developing state. We want to use novel, non-traditional approaches which employ best practice but are packaged in a dynamic and compelling way that excites all Barbadians to want to learn and grow.
“The NTI recognises that for Barbadians to be competitive now and in the future, each of us must recognise and embrace the need and a passion for life-long learning at all segments of society. We are committed to making this training accessible to all Barbadians and in turn, as Barbadians, we must also meaningfully include People with Disabilities (PWD) in every facet of our life and work.”
She added: “We must equally ensure that our focus rests not merely on the acquisition or enhancement of skills and knowledge but on instilling lessons of citizenship, character and values that tangibly demonstrate Barbadian excellence; that our successful training outcomes are not just measured in qualifications but in how successfully trainees are developed as well- rounded citizens – our STARR Bajans. In fact, one thing Covid-19 has thrown into sharp relief is the urgent need for every Barbadian to understand what digital literacy means and how critical it is for each of us to be capable of functioning in a digital world.”
On May 1, the NTI started its awareness building programme to ensure Barbadians understand the work of the NTI, how each citizen fits, and can participate in and benefit from its offerings.
However, the director stressed that NTI is neither just about customer service nor just skills training: “The National Training Initiative is complex and dynamic, built around several key Barbadian values. Training will be diverse, delivered through multiple formats and is intended to result in a range of outcomes. We look forward to sharing the details of the varied dimensions of our work in the coming days and weeks as we invite Barbadians to join us on this national journey.
NTI is part of Government’s Retraining and Retooling programme (ReRe), itself a construct within The Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) Plan. During the March 2019 Budgetary Proposal and Financial Statement, Prime Minister Mottley reiterated that the structural reforms were required to support growth.
“Our growth and development strategy is explained in some detail in the Covenant of Hope launched in May 2016, and also in our BERT Plan document in Section E under the heading ‘Growth Reforms’. It is also published in the IMF Staff Report No. 18/290, Section E on ‘Structural Reforms to Support Growth’.”
NTI was established to address one of the Pillars of the BERT Growth Strategy and part of the ReRe Programme. It is reflected in the Growth Strategy – Section 4 (a): Investing in and deepening existing investments in skills training and education.
She defined it then as a citizen-centric model of growth that required investment in “people and communities [so] everyone has what it takes to choose the life they wish to lead, to be captains of their own journey. To have economic security. To be anything they want to be if they put their mind to it, untethered to the circumstances of their birth. To live a considered life, without fear.”
Through the National Training Initiative, Government “created the room to shortly invest in the largest National Training Initiative in our history, to give all more skills and better skills, skills that equip us for the 21st century …. This National Training Initiative then is a key part of our social strategy as well as our growth strategy. The two go hand in hand.”