The announcement of the launch by the University of Guyana of its School of Business, Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) from next semester has attracted high praise from two local chief executive officers (CEOs), both of whom say that the initiative points to a long overdue move to help respond to the challenge of skills shortages facing the private sector.
Last week, UG Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith told the Stabroek Business that the imminent launch of SEBI represents a move to provide both structured academic courses and specialized skill-upgrading programmes tailored to respond to the needs of entities in both the public and private sectors.
Earlier this week, CEO of Caribbean Container Inc (CCI) and Chairman of the Board of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) Patricia Bacchus told this newspaper in a telephone interview that her company, which has already been providing practical support for the university in terms of seeking to upgrade skill levels in the private sector intends to continue to give support to SEBI.
Bacchus said she had also been part of the discussions leading to the creation of SEBI and had been involved in making “direct inputs” in the design of the programmes. She endorsed the view expressed by the Vice Chancellor during his interview with this newspaper that one of the critical roles that SEBI was expected to play was to bridge the gap between the institutional academic training from which university graduates benefit and the practical hands-on orientation that was necessary for them to respond to actual workplace requirements in the private sector. “There are many instances in which formal education is not sufficient and what the programme will do is to give us people who can put what they have learnt into practice at the workplace,” Bacchus said.
Bacchus, an attorney, said she was particularly enthused with the practical exposure that will be provided by the various short courses in areas that include project management and the preparation of business proposals, skills which she believes will help lift the business spirit in Guyana. She said the sort of training that will help businessmen and women to develop skills to enhance their business acumen, including, critically, understanding how to engage financial institutions is the kind of practical support for business growth which SEBI is expected to provide. “It will help provide the skills that will add value to entrepreneurial pursuits,” Bacchus said.
Bacchus disclosed that CCI already has an ongoing relationship with the Faculty of Technology at the University of Guyana under which the company provides practical, hands-on, industry support for programmes offered by the faculty. Under an existing memorandum of understanding, students in the faculty’s Department of Engineering have been allowed to work on “novel projects” including those associated with the entity’s ventilation and water treatment systems. There have also been instances where the students’ exposure at CCI extended to enabling them to use it as a basis for their final projects at the university.
The CCI CEO said she believed that a critical part of the SEBI/private sector collaboration going forward would be the support which the initiative receives from experienced private sector heads and other senior personnel in being part of the training programmes which the institution will offer, a pursuit to which she is prepared to contribute.
The advent of SEBI, meanwhile, has also won the support of ANSA McAl Guyana Country Manager Beverley Harper who told Stabroek Business that the “highly commendable” initiative could prove particularly useful to persons in the private sector who may have had only limited or no opportunity to receive exposure to formal education.
“It allows people who may be already employed to become formally educated and also allows for further education,” Harper said, while disclosing that ANSA McAl’s local operations had already been taking advantage of the training and upgrading opportunities being offered by the university. The company already has around 35 employees pursuing various courses at UG. “We want to have people trained and we think it is a very worthy initiative,” Harper said.
In his interview with Stabroek Business, Griffith had said that the university intended to use SEBI as a critical part of a broader initiative to actively engage both the private and public sectors not only to raise awareness of the programmes being offered by the institution but also to work with entities in those sectors to design programmes that are responsive to the needs of those entities. He said such engagements had already been held with the Public Service Department of the Ministry of the Presidency with regard to the fashioning of programmes in Management and Executive Management.