Stakeholders of three government agencies are in line to upskill in key areas through access to the National Transformation Initiative’s (NTI) partnership with global MOOC Coursera offering its online courses from top global universities.
On Tuesday, the leaders of Export Barbados (BIDC), Erdiston Teachers’ Training College (ETTC), and the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) signed Letters of Intent (LOI) with the National Transformation Initiative (NTI) to make this a reality.
“The importance of these letters of intent rests with the fact that we recognise there’s a need for transformation… it begins with our institutions in order for it to mushroom into our country”, NTI Director Dr. Leacock explained, and ultimately, she hoped these partnerships would lead to the signing of Memoranda of Understanding. Hinting at new progressive technological additions in the pipeline, she emphasised that the national transformation they envision is rooted in “magnifying Mission Barbados in a very tangible way”.
Under the terms of the LOI, the NTI’s partnership with Coursera, one of the world’s largest global online learning platforms, provides access to a range of accredited courses in critical areas for each of the three entities. According to Export Barbados, ETTC and BADMC leaders, staff and stakeholders will soon have the opportunity to develop new skills and strengthen existing ones with access to the NTI’s Learning Management System.
The LOIs were signed by Export Barbados’ CEO Mark Hill, ETTC’s Deputy Principal Francis Thompson, BADMC’s CEO Frederick Inniss, and NTI Director Dr. Allyson Leacock.
Inniss called the new partnership a “godsend”, noting that while BADMC’s first focus was to upskill staff and improve their service and delivery to stakeholders, a second focus quickly emerged.
“Through the Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) Programme, we also provide training to a number of persons who come into the farming diaspora… and we see this as potentially another opportunity for us to bring this learning opportunity [with the NTI] to those persons who are coming into farming, very often, without any prior knowledge or training”, Inniss said.
Deputy Principal Thompson explained the value of the NTI-ETTC relationship: “The partnership with the NTI opens up possibilities where persons can receive training and upskill… I know that [Principal] Dr. [Colin] Cumberbatch saw this partnership as a no-brainer. The potential for it is limitless because of what we have the capacity to do… Our goal is that in the coming future, all teachers will have access to training on the NTI platform.”
He also stated that the free online training platform provides the scale and accessibility to veteran teachers, whose responsibilities may not allow them the time to physically attend classes at the college, as well as new teachers, who, despite the limitations of place allocation, can still access training that enhances their knowledge and skills.
He shared one of the college’s aspirations: to have their staff of pedagogical experts begin to develop their own home-grown material on the NTI platform.
Discussing Export Barbados’ alignment with the NTI, Hill noted that “economic growth is rooted in deepening our capacity to learn, and platforms like NTI and Coursera with courses on topics like supply chain management, value chain, distribution channels are critical topics that folks need to learn.”
His hope for the partnership involves exploring some of the issues exporters face, such as “packaging design, labelling, design thinking, the capacity to identify value propositions more effectively, and to look at where the real growth areas for export are.”
The NTI-Coursera platform was launched on May 1, 2021, and has seen the addition and expansion of training programmes that continue to be cutting-edge. This partnership allows Barbadians to access in-demand courses and programmes from top universities and leading partners in industry, such as IBM, Google, Salesforce and Meta. To date, the NTI has almost 36 000 enrollments for short online courses, which range from less than one hour to six months or more, given flexible deadlines, for their completion.