**Hon. Alfred Sears, M.P.
Attorney General & Minister of Education**

The Ministry of Education, in cooperation with IBM Bahamas Limited, yesterday sponsored a half-day programme to announce a new *”Education and Training for Competitiveness (ETC)”* initiative. Under the theme ***”Optimism & Opportunity”***, the programme involved a series of presentations and open dialogue to promote a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) approach to training for business growth. Minister Sears said the future economic prosperity and economic development of The Bahamas depends on the capacity of the education and training systems in place to upgrade the skills and competencies of the existing workforce, while training new entrants to the labour market.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is working with the Government of The Bahamas to address deficiencies in workforce development, and the ETC initiative specifically focuses on the development of an education and training system that is aligned with the demands of the economy for skilled human resources. Minister Alfred Sears says the project is inclusive of four major components: Early Childhood Education; Special Education; Information Management; and Technical and Vocational Education and Training. A key objective is to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education and the Bahamas Technical and Vocation Institute (BTVI) to continuously monitor and update training programmes, using reliable and relevant labour market data.

The Government has acknowledged that the integral involvement of the private sector at the design, implementation and assessment phases of the project is critical to success. The International Education Collaborative Foundation (IECF) has been contracted to design and facilitate a strategic plan to engage the private and civil sectors in a sustainable framework for public-private collaboration in workforce development. IECF used the forum yesterday to officially launch its work in this connection, although the agency has been actively pursuing local market research on training as well as public-private sector partnerships over the past few months.

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, a Founding Partner of the initiative, facilitated the forum, held at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel in downtown Nassau.

IECF is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organization. It serves as a resource and clearinghouse, promoting the comprehensive integration of technology in today’s classrooms, and has become an international support system for public school education. The key elements of IECF projects are private-public partnerships and task force development.