Our government is focused on technology as a future pillar of the economy, with increasing emphasis in the fintech area. For Bermuda to succeed in this arena, we need to develop a workforce with the skills to meet the needs and demands of this fast-changing industry.
This was highlighted in a report on Bermuda’s economic future by Cornell/Queens Executive MBA students, commissioned for the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, which identified a gap between the training on offer by our public education system and the needs of both our present and future businesses.
Having a highly educated and technologically literate generation is essential for Bermuda’s future economic development and prosperity.
There have been, and continue to be, many concerns about the quality of our public education system and whether it can adapt to provide the proper foundations for the next generation’s work.
The chamber recognises the key value that education plays in our society and our economy. Being able to hire people with the correct skills to contribute effectively and to be able to adapt as their roles change is essential to doing business.
In partnership with the United States Consul General, the chamber is hosting a presentation by Chok Ooi about technology and education at lunchtime on December 10. Initiatives such as his could assist Bermuda in achieving a change in our own educational system and outcomes.
Mr Ooi, after achieving financial success by developing trading systems for leading financial institutions, founded Kenzie Academy in the United States. Its mission is to develop a new talent pool and attract new technology jobs and opportunities in communities around the globe by offering technology training through both in-person classrooms and through remotely conducted courses.
Typically, the focus of education has been on the traditional skills: reading, writing and mathematics. These are essential foundations to learning, but we also need to develop students’ skills to learn, to think, to research and to discover.
In a fast-changing economy, this is the skill set that will best serve our businesses and the students themselves.
For many first-intake jobs in the workplace, employers have less need for someone with subject-matter knowledge than for someone with an inquiring mind and soft skills. They need individuals who are not only literate and numerate, but who know how to think critically, who can ask the right questions, who can search for the solutions, and who can analyse and present the results.
To achieve this, our public-school teachers need significant support. First, through increased investment in technology in the classroom to take full advantage of the resources that are available. Second, through appropriate training in delivering courses that give all students the soft skills they need to succeed.
As families and as a society, we need to ensure that our schools are places where students are challenged, rewarded and inspired to learn, so they can take full advantage of the opportunities that are opening around them.
In short, we need a change in our mindset about the value of education. Without this change, we will continue to have increasing numbers of unemployed Bermudians.
• John Wight is the president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce