The efforts by guidance counsellors in Barbados to help secondary school students prepare for a career of their choice are being hampered by a number of limitations, says President of the Barbados Association of Guidance Counsellors Margaret Grant.
According to her, guidance counsellors were under tremendous pressure since they were “under the teachers’ schedule” and were therefore required to teach Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) to hundreds of students, in addition to provide counselling to the school population.
“As the counsellor, you would understand that we have the entire school to look after. Right now there are three schools that have two counsellors while all the other schools have one counsellor, sometimes to 900 or 1,000 children,” Grant told the Workforce Preparation Skills workshop organised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations.
In addition, she said efforts by the guidance counsellors to provide direct career guidance and educational career planning services to meet the needs of students were being hampered by financial constraints.
Grant also pointed out that it was not in every case that the HFLE was being taught by teachers who were trained in this area, or who were even interested in teaching it.
“There are some that are trained in the system, but many times because in the secondary school system teachers are specialised in specific subject areas and therefore you might find that the persons who are trained in Health and Family Life Education may not be the ones who are actually teaching the lessons,” she said.
While pointing out that the majority of guidance counsellors were educated up to the Masters Degree level, Grant said she was confident in their ability.
However, she said, this did not take away from the constraints being faced in helping young people choose a career path.
In putting forward a number of recommendations, the president pointed to the need for a fully-furnished dedicated career resource centre and the development and implementation of a career guidance module for first to sixth form students across the school system.
“We have to step out of the box and where we can see innovation, run with it. So a summer camp where children can come and just hear about career planning and who they really are, do some self assessment, self awareness, self regulation, all these things are necessary if we want to get our children really ready for the workforce,” she said.
Grant also wants to see an increase in the number of students involved in the summer programme between the then Ministry of Civil Service and the guidance counsellors’ organisation, which allows for secondary school students to be assigned to a ministry or government department for work experience.
She said the programme started with five students per school but up to last year it was down to only two students per school.
Rodney Grant, Consultant with the Barbados Association of Non-governmental Organisation (BANGO), said in order to bridge the gap between school leavers and the workforce it was important for students to be taught soft skills.
This, he said, could be carried out through a strategic partnership between the public sector and civil society and the private sector.
He also insisted that students should be encouraged to study subject areas and programmes in which they were interested.