Georgetown, Guyana – (September 26, 2019) President David Granger said trade unions particularly those that represent the interests of public servants, must play an active role in workers’ training and education to ensure that they are equipped with the skills that will allow them to remain relevant in the fast-paced technological world and the changing market place.

The President made these statements in his address at the opening ceremony of the 23rd Biennial Congress of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) which was hosted, yesterday, in the Baridi Benab at State House.

The Head of State pointed out that change is taking place at a rapid pace and is transforming the nature of the workplace. Therefore, workers who are not prepared for the continuous changes in the field and office could find their careers retarded and their service redundant, he said

“Workers will be unable to adapt to this new workplace environment unless they receive constant training. Education is essential to preparing employees to enter the labour market and once in the labour market, to adapt continuously to the changing nature of work. It means that education must be continuous. Technological change – especially through automation and information communication technology – brings both opportunity and uncertainty. Technological change has spawned new jobs but it has caused, also, many redundancies and labour retrenchment. The transformation of labour is the inevitable consequence of these changing times that labour has to change to keep abreast with the times and the market place,” he emphasised.

In this regard, President Granger noted that the modern Public Service demands competent, proficient and versatile workers, who can adapt constantly to changing technologies. He added that the Public Service has created jobs for highly-skilled persons but it has also displaced low-skilled employees and the conclusion is obvious; to survive, employees have to become more highly-skilled even after they have commenced their service.

The Head of State said that the Public Service is indispensable to any modern state and is a necessity if citizens’ lives are to be improved and an enabling environment for businesses is to be created. 

However, he noted that this requires a corps of highly trained and competent public servants, who can deliver quality and timely public services.

“We inherited a situation, in 2015, in which cadets could enter the Public Service without an adequate understanding of the external and internal environments in which they were required to function and sometimes without a full appreciation of the complexity of this country to which we belong – its history, geography, its demography, laws, governmental structure and the systems and regulations of public administration. Regrettably, many school-leavers are unprepared for complexity of work within the Guyana Public Service. They require additional training to be able to deliver services across the ten administrative regions which straddle the coastlands, the grasslands and savannahs, the highlands, the wetlands and forested and riverine areas. That was the justification for the establishment of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service, to ensure that those entering the Public Service were equipped with a deeper understanding of the nature of the public administration in this complex country,” he explained.

It is for this reason, the President said, the Public Service is being transformed horizontally and vertically. He noted that the Public Service is being improved vertically because Guyana’s economy is undergoing transformational change and the transformation will quicken in the years after 2020. Therefore, he said, the Public Sector is being reconfigured to better regulate our economic sectors – including the natural resources and telecommunications sectors – and to protect the environment and in the discharge of its regulatory role, will therefore require more specialized and highly-skilled public servants.

“Cadets entering the Public Service therefore must possess the requisite agility and versatility to work not only in every part of the country but also in a competitive and digitized environment against younger and better educated Cadets, who will continue to enter the service. Workers require better training to be able to adapt to this environment. Unions, particularly the Public Service Union, must play a part in helping its members to adapt to these changes and to ensure that the workforce is better educated in order to play a meaningful role in the delivery of these services. The International Labour Organization established a Global Commission on the Future of Work, in 2017. The ‘Report’ warned that the skills of today will not match the jobs of tomorrow and that newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete. One of the principal challenges, facing the modern workforce relates to the need to be equipped with the skills necessary for a rapidly changing workplace. Education is the means to overcoming that challenge,” he said.

While trade unions must play a role, President Granger said that the Government will also do what is necessary, particularly in the fields of education, to prepare members of the Guyanese society and Public Service to be better educated and trained. These efforts will be part of the Government’s ‘Decade of Development from 2020- 2029.’ This decade, the President said, will place emphasis on education.

“It will ensure that every citizen enjoys his or her entitlement to education. This entitlement is not the invention of a political party. It is embedded in the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. Free education is mandated by our Constitution. It will ensure that every village has a school. We sometimes ignore the importance of childhood education. Education starts in the home and the village. The ‘Decade’ will ensure that there is at least one primary school in every village. It will ensure that every school has a place for every child. Every Guyanese child must have easy access to school by road or river. Your Government will expand the provision of buses, boats and bicycles through the Public Education Transportation Service (PETS) in order to reduce the financial burdens on parents. It will expand the school-feeding programme and the book delivery programme to encourage school attendance and improve performance,” he said.

The President said that the ‘Decade’ will also place greater emphasis on the teaching of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) and promote a lifelong system of education – from the cradle to the grave. Special attention will be given to cooperation and collaboration with trade unions to strengthen workers’ education so that they can make the most of the opportunities which are available in the economy, he also added.

“I iterate the call for our trade unions, particularly those which represent public servants, to play a more active role in workers’ training. I urge them to become more active in workers’ education as mandated by the ‘Report’ of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, established by the International Labour Organization. The Guyana Public Service Union, established 96 years ago, has the experience and the expertise to inaugurate a new compact, agreement, concord between the government, the trade unions and the private sector. The Union – one of Guyana oldest trade unions – has to lead by example. Public servants, however, must upgrade their training continuously if they are to remain relevant to the new economy which is emerging. Trade unions have a responsibility to invest in the well-being of their workers’, including through collaboration with private and public agencies to improve workers’ education,” he said.

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