OVER two dozen students from the National Skills Development Centre (NSDC)’s cosmetology and massage therapy classes attended the Specialty Caribbean Expo 2017 held at Daren Sammy Cricket Ground from March 10-12.
Their aim was to signal to the business community that they were marketable assets worth taking the chance on since they possess the skills required for their fields.
The event brought together some of the OECS and Martinique’s leading goods and service providers and was organized by the Saint Lucia Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEPA) in association with the OECS Secretariat under the theme, “A Unique Buying Experience”, and aimed at increasing exports in priority sectors and markets within the region.
“The students were here to gain exposure because many times people assume that they know what’s happening at NSDC,” MustapharFelicien, NSDC’s Public Relations Officer, told The VOICE. “So to see the sheer magnitude of passion coming from these students is something else.”
While students in the two courses are predominantly women, a few men are currently enrolled in the massage therapy class and Felicien said men did very well versus women in the course, adding that men needed to consider it as a great career choice.
Of all the classes NSDC offers to unemployed youth, Felicien said the choice to highlight the classes at the trade expo was because massage therapy and cosmetology are areas that are recognized internationally and in high demand.
The cosmetology and massage therapy courses run between three and five months. Each course comes with the requisite soft skills that students must acquire to hold them in good stead in the work environment.
“Right now, it’s all about attitude,” Felicien said. “If your attitude isn’t good, we’re not going to train you – period. We want employers to know that the quality of people they are getting from NSDC are people who really understand the importance of soft skills and how to apply them to their work. Hopefully, the students would get an opportunity to interphase with some employment agencies that can hire them on the spot.”
Felicien said NSDC runs various courses as best it can afford, depending on its budget, and also offers technical vocational training, followed by a job placement component. He admitted that the centre was constrained from delving into more interesting areas due to inadequate funding. Despite these odds, he believes NSDC gives students the platform to develop themselves holistically.
“One of the advantages to NSDC – and I really want employers to understand that – by always advertising for people with CXCs, you may be cutting yourself short,” Felicien explained. “The CVQ (Caribbean Vocational Qualification) is really what people should be looking out for because it is based on competence, which is basically the ability to perform on the job. When you hire someone from NSDC, you’re getting someone who is competent and has done the work before.”
Twenty-four-year-old Shem Julien enrolled in the massage therapy class four months ago and hopes to use the training to land a job at a hotel. However, his long-term goal is to open his own business. The course, he said, has been eye-opening so far, adding that he wants to become a physiotherapist.
“The course has changed me very much. I used to be a very loud person. But coming into the new learning environment at NSDC, I’ve managed to calm down a bit. As you would know, being a massage therapist means that one has to be calm. So I had to change my attitude and tone of voice. I now feel more empowered,” he said.
Keri Jorney, twentysomething, is part of the five-month-long cosmetology programme, explaining that it had always been her passion to pursue a course in that field. She said the course’s pre-training component that teaches communication skills makes her an invaluable asset in preparation for the workplace and eventually open her own business.
“I would advise people to pursue their goals. There will be a lot of sacrifices in doing so. However, the ultimate goal is what really matters. If you have a goal, just pursue it,” Jorney said.