Taiwan is offering an opportunity for 15 Vincentian students to pursue short vocational education courses in Taiwan.
This was one of the things that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Camillo Gonsalves negotiated during an official visit to Taiwan in September.
Over 170 students have either graduated or are in programmes in universities in Taiwan.
The minister, however, indicated to Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen that there is a subset of the Vincentian society that cannot benefit from those university scholarships.
“And those would be people who don’t have those types of … academic qualifications but may have skills,” he told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday.
He said he indicated that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there are a number of young people, particularly young men, who would like an opportunity to develop marketable vocational skills that can enable them to get a job doing something that does not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree but certification and skill in a particular area.
The minister said he expressed his admiration for what he knew about the Taiwan’s vocational system and the president organised for him to visit the Workforce Development Agency.
The agency is a campus that is over 20 acres in size and offers vocational education in a variety of fields, including in culinary arts, graphic design, automotive repair, hospitality development, and air conditioning.
Gonsalves said Tsai consented, as an initial number, to take 15 students from SVG on this vocational education programme.
“Now, these programmes are not long programmes. They go from three to six months in duration depending on the programme.”
He said that in the same way Vincentian students are hosted in Taiwan for their university education, they will receive similar treatment to go to Taiwan for three to six months to be certified in a particular vocational area.
Gonsalves said he anticipates meeting with the ambassador in Kingstown to decide the areas of priority for SVG.
“Now, the interesting thing at the Workforce Development Agency, is while a number of the universities offers instruction in English, the vocational education system in Taiwan is entirely in Chinese.
“I spoke to the foreign minister about this issue and again, we are very grateful and happy to say that they are going to structure special English language vocational programmes to accommodate — you know, for a three-month programme, it doesn’t make sense tell somebody they have to go and learn Mandarin, because learning … Mandarin would be longer than learning the vocational skill.”
He said Kingstown and Taipei are in discussion to see if they can move some of their instructors to SVG to get a larger number of students enrolled.
“But the point that was made by them is a valid point, that they have a great deal of infrastructure there (Taiwan) in terms of how to teach some of these things, you need a lot of equipment and they would like to start by bringing students up and we will have these conversations going forward about sending instructors down,” Gonsalves said.