Madame Speaker, as a Territory we have just experienced the most devastating hurricane ever seen in our region. It has negatively impacted our lives but there are positive things that arise from this situation as well. In the words of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste“. This crisis provides an opportunity for us to correct some things and we must seize the opportunities.
As we looked at what has happened around us, Madam Speaker, with approximately eighty to ninety percent (80%-90%) of all residential homes and businesses in the territory severely damaged, the Ministry of Education decided that there were opportunities for us through the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) to help persons not only sharpen skills but learn new skills as labour is going to be needed in the building industry. Further, with the devastation in the Tourism industry we recognize that many persons are going to need to retool themselves in order to find employment. Madam Speaker, the truth is that we have shunned the technical professions for many years and now we are at a point where it is extremely difficult to find local technical talent. The Ministry of Education sought to change this with the introduction of the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies but we must continue to do more.
As a result, Madam Speaker, I had early meetings with the Chairman and President of HLSCC to ask them to begin looking at short courses that could be offered in this field. We are aiming to prepare a skilled workforce in a broad range of technical trade subjects as a means of rebuilding homes and businesses in the Territory. It is hoped that this effort will enable cost effectiveness, confidence and quality assurance in the re-building efforts being undertaken Territory-wide.
Madam Speaker, the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College therefore will be offering 10 short courses in a range of construction related fields, namely: Window Installation, Door Installation, Understanding Construction Basics for Home Owners, Managing Construction Projects, Building Refresher Course for Contractors, Basic Electricity, Basic Plumbing, Generator Maintenance and Repair and Construction Estimating and Project Management. The courses will be offered initially over a six month period from November 2017 to May 2018 and Registration and Orientation begins on November 15 on Tortola and November 17 on Virgin Gorda.
Madam Speaker, I have asked for these programmes to be done free of cost to the eligible participants. We are hoping to at least be able to train 1,000 persons during this course. It is my intention as Minister with the responsibility for Youth Affairs to encourage as many young persons as possible to sign up. We also intend to dovetail this programme with a paid apprenticeship programme through the Youth Employment Services Unit.
Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the Chairman of the Board and the President for ensuring that this project got off the ground. I also wish to thank the members of the community who so willingly gave their time to assist with the development of the courses in such a short time-frame: Mr. Greg Adams, Mr. Autley Crabbe, Mr. Sawyers (Quantity Surveyor for Autland), Mr. Heskith Newton, Dr. Drexel Glasgow, Mr. Bennet Smith, Mr. Perry Stoutt as well as the college personnel, Vice President, Mrs. Judith Vanterpool, Mr. Lloyd Wheatley, Ms. Bernadine Louis, Dr. Almein O’Neal, Dr. Pat Johnson and Dr. Jasmatti Yamraj.
Again, Madam Speaker, I urge persons to make use of this opportunity and let us work together to build this Territory.
Thank you Madam Speaker.