September 17, 2021

Cayman Islands careers fair draws hundreds of students

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More than 500 students visited the recent second annual Careers Fair held under the auspices of the small private Cayman Academy high school at UCCI’s Sir Vassel Johnson Hall. Among exhibits, the fair featured robotics, drones, test-tubes illustrating medical blood work, drug-sniffing dogs, and weather information-gathering tools.
Cayman Academy opened the fair to all Grand Cayman’s secondary schools, public and private. In addition to the 150 Cayman Academy students visiting the fair, some 265 toured from the government-owned John Gray and Clifton Hunter schools, whose careers departments took the opportunity to further engage students in the intensive and far-reaching subject selection process. Other students visited throughout the day from Grace Christian Academy, Wesleyan Holiness, and UCCI.
Dispensing information and insights, 35 public and private entities exhibited at the 23 November fair.  High profile visitors to the fair included Minister for Education, the Hon. Tara Rivers, and President Shion O’Connor, chairman of the board of Cayman Academy.
Touring the fair, Minister Rivers remarked on the opportunity afforded students to gain insights “into the many industries exhibiting in one location, all on the same day” and which enabled students to “connect with employers from industries they may not have previously considered.”
Pastor O’Connor, President of the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said he, too, was “impressed by the number of companies and government departments that partnered with Cayman Academy … creating “a rich potpourri of choices for our students.”
The Cayman Academy board chair commented on how well the fair was organised, noting that “the involvement of the nation’s major high schools and universities [had] significantly enriched the experience” and added: “We will definitely be making this an annual event of our school’s calendar as we seek to support our students’ achievement of clear choices for their future.”
Among private sector agencies participating was Cayman Enterprise City, the special economic zone and international business hub. Endorsing the fair, CEO Charles Kirkconnell said: “We were pleased to support Cayman Academy Careers Fair, which was meticulously organised and well attended.”  Mr. Kirkconnell added that his company chose to exhibit at the fair out of its commitment to work “in partnership with all schools and colleges to encourage students to consider careers in STEM, and to connect young Caymanians with opportunities within Cayman Enterprise City.”
Another private sector CEO, Mr. Jude Scott, of the public/private amalgam Cayman Finance, also commented on the alignment of his organisation’s goals with participation in the event: “Our involvement in initiatives like this is an important element of Cayman Finance’s mission,” because, he said, “In order to protect, promote, develop and grow our financial services industry, we have to foster interest in the student population in Cayman, while showing them the available pathways into the wide range of career options within the industry.”
Commenting generally, Mr. Scott said: “We were very impressed with the effort that Cayman Academy put into this Careers Fair. It was an amazing event for Cayman Finance to be a part of.”
Other participating private sector agencies included Health City, Cayman Contractors Association, the law firm TMC Chambers, Cayman Islands Television (the television broadcast arm of the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventist) and Educational institutions such as the University of the West Indies, Northern Caribbean University (based in Jamaica), and the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Complementing this group, a range of government agencies exhibited also.  Departments showcasing the range of careers and activities included Environmental Health, Agriculture, Fire Services, Lands & Survey, Planning, the National Workforce Development Agency (including the Scholarship Secretariat), Tourism, Education, Customs, Immigration, Weather Service, Children & Family Services, the Family Resource Centre, Computer Services, Environment (DoE), MRCU, Government Information Services, the Truman Bodden Law School, and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
Many of these agencies went out of their way to represent their sectors as authentically and actively as possible, said Ms Patricia Ebanks, who coordinated arrangements for the fair on behalf of Cayman Academy.
For example, the Customs Department brought out its canine unit and handlers, illustrating an aspect of their work in drug detection; also on exhibit was one of the department’s high-speed marine drugs interdiction vessels.  The Health Services Authority’s booth brought out a phalanx of clinicians, medical technologist and service staff who keep the authority’s medical services humming; UCCI’s work in robotics and drones attracted huge interest; MRCU had its inevitable mosquitoes under the microscope; and a food and nutrition booth led by specialist Angela Hall illustrated careers in that field and associated aspects of cooking.
Speaking for the large cohort of staff who rotated through the Health Services Authority booth throughout the day, Communications Manager Lisa Parks said that a key goal was to highlight “the many diverse professions available within the healthcare industry.” In addition to the medical professions, she noted, career options included technical and financial and administrative occupations, along with housekeeping and catering vocations. “All of these areas are essential to our operations,” Ms Parks emphasised.
Commenting generally on the importance of the fair and why his small school rose to the challenging of staging this event, Cayman Academy Principal O’Niel Duncan, described the initiative as a public service by the school to meet an important need: “The harsh reality is that a significant number of high-schoolers do they make the right career choices in school and are not prepared for life after graduation.”
Dr. Duncan observed that industry representatives at the fair offered evidence-based career guidance, information, and vocational assessment, all geared towards ensuring that students were ready for the world of work.
“We want the next generation to be more creative in bridging” the divide between classroom instruction and developing and applying talents, he said, adding that he hoped that the fair would help to bring greater clarity to those decisions.
Among those facilitating these possibilities, UCCI’s Facilities Manager Fernando McLaughlin and Director of Marketing, PR and Alumni, Mrs. Kristel Sanchez gave invaluable support and assistance with the arrangements for exhibits in the Sir Vassel Johnson hall, said fair coordinator Patricia Ebanks. She also thanked the Chief Officer for the Portfolio of the Civil Service, Mrs. Gloria McField Nixon, and UCCI’s President Roy Bodden whose organisations were prime sponsors of the fair.
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