Mr Smith was speaking on the Monday, May 3, 2021, edition of his radio show, alongside Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7).
Smith said on seeing a young man excel after working in a trade, “It brought to my mind, apprenticeship for the young people particularly young men, and recognising that the young men that we think are lazy or just hanging on the block all they need is the opportunity perhaps in training in the vocations,” he said.
According to Dr Wheatley, one of the challenges he met when first becoming Minister of Education was the challenge of vocational training.
“I think we did a good job… with the Virgin Islands Schools of Technical Studies. We've done a good job of that, of making sure we have an institution,” Dr Wheatley said.
He said, however, while the programme has introduced study areas like cosmetology and hospitality and other areas where students were performing well, he said there is still a gap.
“It's an academic school like any other school and it starts from 10th grade, and the challenge we are seeing there in there is you have quite a number of persons who are struggling in the academics.”
He said authorities recognise various reasons why persons struggle, ranging from teaching style, challenges and some social disparities in the community which translates to educational outcomes.
“So, we're seeing persons from primary school having certain struggles and some persons might say, 'well my child is struggling, let me put them in the technical school' and they are mistaken because in a technical school you have to complete all your academic subjects,” he said.
Hon Wheatley said a new series of vocational skills studies is being piloted to address the challenges highlighted.
He said the programme will mix academic school studies and apprenticeship so more youths who do not excel in academics would be able to access skills training.
While there was a concern that academics would be placed on the backburner, Hon Wheatley said the plan is to meet students where they are and then allow them to progress from there.