On December 18th, 2023, the OECS Commission met with the delegation of George Brown College, led by its President, Dr. Gervan Fearon. The meeting was chaired by the Head of the Human and Social Division, Mrs. Sisera Simon, and attended by Senior Technical Specialists of the Human and Social Division and Officers of the Development Cooperation and Resource Mobilisation Unit.
The George Brown College is one of the largest educational institutions located in Toronto, Canada. Its programs place emphasis on hands-on and real-world experiences and the college offers more than 160 career-focused programs. Creating experiential learning opportunities is a key goal for the institution as it prides itself on linking theory with practice, through its extensive apprenticeship and experiential learning programmes.
Participants at the meeting with the George Brown College engaged in substantive dialogue that focused on the provision of experiential learning opportunities, translation of credentials, and supporting the development of skilled workers and apprentices, with the ultimate objective of constructing a regional global workspace.
The idea of a global workspace has become a reality, as the world is increasingly interconnected economically, politically, environmentally, and socially. Thus, opportunities for global learning exchanges are significant as they prepare students and faculty for addressing the global challenges they are likely to encounter in the 21st Century while promoting a culture of peace and instilling respect for cultural diversity.
"This is timely on the heels of a recently concluded study on TVET education in Europe, remarking that the Commission welcomes the opportunity to foster a strategic partnership with George Brown College to accelerate increasing access to higher education for OECS nationals. This collaborative effort between the George Brown College, Ministries of Education, and national colleges can further enhance accessibility to higher education. The Commission through such partnerships seeks to explore potential scholarship programs, flexible learning formats, and outreach initiatives on behalf of member countries of the OECS to ensure that a diverse range of students can benefit from higher education opportunities." - Head of the Human and Social Division, Mrs. Sisera Simon.
Dr. Gervan Fearon, the president of George Brown College, cited the renowned Noble Laureate Sir Arthur Lewis, regarding his emphasis on the development of an economy's human capital—that is, its skills, talents, and values—to foster economic growth. He remarked:
“Education is the pathway to the future providing the foundation for gaining the knowledge, skills and competences to confidently embrace emerging opportunities in the global economy and the increasingly interconnected world. Through the partnership with OECS, we aim to collaborate in the co-creation of educational pathways that empower students from the region to access career-oriented educational programs through George Brown College and partnering local tertiary institutions to meet student needs, to support regional education and economic goals and to support competitiveness at the global level.”
This prompted additional discussion regarding the significance of supporting the development of human capital for global competitiveness in a way that fosters growth rather than depletes it via brain drain. The Head of the Human and Social Division made a request to the visiting delegation for summary data which would provide insight into the types of programs being pursued by OECS nationals at the college and also the numbers who choose to remain in Canada.
In closing, the Head of the Human and Social Division further emphasised the pursuit of Strategic Imperatives 6 and 7 of the OECS Education Sector Strategy (OESS) 2012-2026. These strategic priorities are focused on the attainment of a quality education system that enables learners of all ages in the OECS to reach their fullest potential, advance equity and inclusion, as well as contribute to the transformation of the OECS’ economies to become globally competitive as outlined in the OECS Strategic Priorities:
Strategic Imperative VI: Promote opportunities for all learners in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
Strategic Imperative VII: Increase provisions for Tertiary and Continuing Education.
The meeting concluded with agreement on the following:
- A Working Group would be established to further identify and examine areas of cooperation, tangible benefits for OECS territories and George Brown College.
- Development of a proposal including a work plan outlining the areas of collaboration, enabling factors analysis through a co-creation approach.
- Joint resource mobilisation efforts to secure the necessary technical and financial resources required.
- Deepen discussions and engagement with OECS Member States, National Colleges, Ministries and Ministers of Education and Development Partners.
The Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules, following a courtesy meeting with President Fearon, expressed:
“We are excited about the strategic impact of this collaboration with George Brown College because it not only leverages the globally recognised competence of Canadian tertiary institutions in comprehensive education that embraces strong academics and industry valued technical skills but it also opens new opportunities for migrant labor upskilling, grassroots upskilling and remote participation in the global digital economy.”