News & Features

Jamaica Obsever: 'Sound and useful advice from Mr Vaughn Reid'
Published: Wednesday, September 6, 2017 11:08:50 AM

Those who took a look at the Sunday Observer may have seen an intriguing story headlined 'When I left Bible school I bought a tractor trailer'.

Essentially, the article relates how Mr Vaughn Reid, a guest speaker at a recent graduation ceremony for the Mandeville-based Northern Caribbean University (NCU), sought to get across the message that his listeners shouldn't be slavishly dependent on their academic qualifications to make their way in life.

They would be well advised, he said, to develop skills and approaches which will serve well, even outside of preferred career paths.

In the case of Mr Reid, who left what was then West Indies College (now NCU) in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in theology, he decided to defy the norm.

“You don't have to conform to conventions and societal pressure,” Mr Reid told the 500 students who were graduating from NCU. “When I left Bible school I decided to (fight) convention and buy a tractor trailer. Those were some of the most wonderful days of my life,” he said.

Presumably, in addition to having a “wonderful” time, Mr Reid made good money.

Said he: “Everybody (boasts) about the white-collar workers in families, the ones with more degrees than a thermometer. We need those people, and they deserve the credit, but would it be so bad to try and be the best carpenter, like Jesus?”

Of course, many Jamaicans with university degrees who have left Jamaica — sometimes because of the difficulty in gaining employment — often find themselves being out-earned by carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, health care workers, et al in foreign climes.

A rapidly changing world fuelled by the dizzying speed in the evolution of digital/computerised technology and robotics and the huge global expansion in the hospitality/tourism industry makes it even more essential for young people to move away from the old concepts of 'white collar'. Indeed, there is an ever-increasing demand for innovative entrepreneurship and new businesses.

We note that the Ministry of Education is increasingly seeking to incorporate technology and skills training in the high school curriculum — though some would say it is not happening fast enough.

Money is always the problem. There is never enough to satisfactorily equip the computer labs, science labs, food and nutrition departments, woodwork and metalwork labs, auto mechanic centres, etc.

At NCU, Mr Reid's advice would have fallen on fertile ground, given that institution's recent achievements in new technologies and in encouraging innovative entrepreneurship.

Sadly, though, there are still many Jamaican parents who can only visualise success for their children clothed in a business suit.

Opinion leaders at every level should follow the example of Mr Vaughn Reid in striving to change that mindset.

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