The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has advanced a new partnership phase with Caribbean Airlines (CAL) following the regional airline’s investment in a structured on-the-job training programme for students to enhance their academic journeys. Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, and Chief Executive Officer at CAL, Garvin Medera signed an MOU on October 27, formalising the initiative conceptualised in October 2022 and piloted earlier this year.
The two major Caribbean entities are longstanding partners who share a deep commitment to developing the region’s human capital resources. This partnership is yet another demonstration of a pillar in UWI’s strategic plan focused on fostering academic-industry alliances. The University is also committed to producing all-rounded graduates that are well-equipped to build the Caribbean and shape the world, and programmes like these with CAL help to accomplish this while being responsive to stakeholder feedback on the quality and career readiness of its graduates.
Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Chief Executive Officer at CAL, Garvin Medera signing the MOU
During the MOU signing ceremony, Vice-Chancellor expressed that it was reflective of The UWI’s legacy as an indigenous Caribbean institution in its 75th year and fitting to celebrate this milestone, particularly within the graduation season, by formalising its partnership with CAL, another Caribbean institution of excellence. He noted that 20 years ago, The UWI’s population consisted of approximately 20,000 students, and today, it is an estimated 50,000. The region and CAL have been the beneficiaries of that doubling of UWI students. Vice-Chancellor Beckles described the UWI-CAL relationship as dialectically linked, “This is exciting for us. We see our future as integrated. We thank you for investing in our students and our young people here and in the future.”
Delivering remarks at the signing, Mr Medera, who shared that he is a proud UWI alumnus noted that it is particularly significant that two institutions that were conceptualised by the Caribbean’s “federation fathers” are working hand in hand to support the development of the region’s students. He explained, “The objective of this programme is clear and profound. We are providing a unique opportunity for students of The UWI to gain practical, relevant work experience and training within various departments of Caribbean Airlines. It’s about bridging the gap between theory and practice, between the classroom and the real world,” and reiterated that Caribbean Airlines is committed to expanding the programme regionally.
This new MOU builds on previous engagements of CAL adopting interns from The UWI St. Augustine Campus’ Faculty of Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2018 and 2019, and from the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS), Department of Economics in 2021.
Signalling an interest in developing more structured internship arrangements to support projects across all its divisions that could be scaled across the region, CAL engaged The UWI’s Office of Global Affairs in October 2022 to assist with developing a framework for a pilot programme designed to enhance the students’ practical skills and competencies and professional development.
With the considerable support of the Faculties and the Division of Student Services and Development, the pilot successfully launched in January 2023 with the recruitment of the first cohort from the FSS to support CAL’s marketing function as they embarked on launching their new “Welcome Home” campaign, as well as to support revenue management teams. A total of 10 interns were engaged from March to September 2023, with 6 of these being offered an extension of the internship for a further six months based on their excellent performance. Eight new interns in the second cohort have joined the extended first cohort from October 2023 to April 2024.
The students employed come from various disciplines including marketing, economics, management, electrical engineering, computer science, banking and finance, accounting, communication studies, human resource management and project management. The second cohort will add value to CAL project teams from an expanded group of functional areas, including reservations, corporate communications and business optimization.
Khemronn Felix, who recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Marketing shared, “The internship taught me the importance of networking …and the significance of building a professional network. Through networking, I was fortunate enough to have individuals who were willing to mentor me. It provided me with a profound sense of guidance and support that extended far beyond the scope of my internship and academic pursuits. These mentors generously shared their wisdom, experiences, and perspectives, helping me navigate the complexities and challenges of both the professional world and my personal growth journey.”
Pradevi Haroop, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics and Economics, expressed, “The past 8 months at Caribbean Airlines has been nothing short of an exceptional experience for me. I was assigned to the Revenue Management department along with three other interns, where we mainly assisted with data analysis and reporting while also working on a revenue monitoring project…Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed as we were being trained to produce our reports as needed. By collaborating with others on this project and my daily and monthly tasks, I was able to harness the benefits of teamwork and partnership but we also discovered ways to maximize each other’s strengths.”
Ms Sandrea Maynard, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Global Affairs, The UWI (second from left) with UWI/CAL Student Interns, Khemronn Felix (left), Judha Marslier and Pradevi Haroop (right)
The October 27 MOU signing was witnessed by The UWI’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Global Affairs, Ms Sandrea Maynard whose office led the brokering of the partnership. Also in attendance were Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the St. Augustine Campus, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, University Registrar/Chief Administrative Officer Dr Maurice D. Smith, together with the student interns and other personnel from The UWI and CAL.
In the next phase of the development, CAL aims to scale the programme across the other campuses of The UWI and continue supporting student development in other areas such as the sponsorship of graduation awards to high performing students across the regional UWI system.