Graduates release balloons to celebrate their graduation.
~Graduate in carpentry, electrical, property maintenance~
CAY HILL–It was a proud and in some cases, emotional moment for 78 men and women, who on Thursday received certificates that they had successfully met the requirements needed to operate at level one in one of three areas in the construction field: carpentry, electrical and property maintenance.
In addition to the 78, a number of workers from the Department of Labour and Social Affairs also received certificates for successfully completing a Life Skills Train the Trainer course during a graduation ceremony held at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA).
The 78 construction graduates completed a six-month programme as part of the Emergency Income Support and Training Project funded by the Dutch Government through the Trust Fund managed by the World Bank and executed by certified trainers from the Trinidad-based MIC Institute of Technology (MIC-IT).
Property maintenance student Ismael Rock was named valedictorian, while Leonard Johathan Casimio (carpentry), Ricardo Scott (property maintenance) and Rafeek Calorio (electrical) were named most outstanding students in their respective fields. It was an emotional moment when family members of the late Natashia Schmidt went up to collect the certificate that she will never get a chance to collect because her life was cut short when she was shot in the midst of an argument allegedly involving her boyfriend and sibling last year. She was enrolled in the programme at the time of her death.
The graduation was described as a major achievement for St. Maarten’s post-Hurricane Irma recovery process as these locally-educated graduates can now contribute to the reconstruction of the country.
MIC-IT official Deshaun David told The Daily Herald in an interview after the graduation that the students surpassed expectations, were motivated and were hungry to learn.
David said the programme began on August 13, 2018 and ended with the graduation on Thursday, February 7. Students attended classes five days a week. The programme began with 72 students and at one point went up to 91 students and levelled off at the 78 who graduated.
“St. Maarten was like a breath of fresh air,” David said. “When you are in education as an educator, you learn from students like this. These students wanted everything we had. Everything we offered, they were right there to accept it. They were going home and doing research and coming to class. They did not waste time at all. And because we had that kind of energy from them, we went with it. We ran a level one programme here, but none of these students graduated at level one, they are all level three or four,” David assured. “We designed a level one programme, but we used level two and three scenarios and put them in level two or three environments, which is different from what a lot of training institutions do.”
David said a decision was made to do work to upgrade NIPA and use that opportunity to also train students and equip them with hands-on experience during the programme. Students built an attractive wooden deck, which was admired by many at the graduation and which Davis said, now allows NIPA to offer levels three and four programmes in hospitality. Students also constructed a classroom in NIPA’s skills lab and upgraded NIPA’s electrical lab.
David said for many of the graduates, the programme had been a last chance for them as some never completed an educational training programme in their life and some never had persons who believed in them. “What wasn’t tackled post Irma was the trauma that people went through… and we were able to work with a lot of them who went through hard times.”
As it relates to future employment, David said a number of major contractors have been showing interest in hiring students. He said MIC-IT looked at the needs of the country to determine what skills were needed and this is what the programme catered to.
Another programme will be starting, offering an additional two disciplines – plumbing and masonry. In the future, the intention is to add welding and other needed disciplines.
Labour Minister Emil Lee called the graduation “a milestone moment” and said it had been a challenging journey, but stressed that everyone put their best efforts together to ensure that the project had been a success. He said more than US $20 million was ploughed into the project, which started as a hospitality skills training programme and expanded to include other programmes. “It is a win, win project in many different aspects,” Lee said.
He said this “cash transfer programme,” was a way to help equip residents with skills to help build St. Maarten back better, while at the same time putting money in their hands. Those enrolled in the programme received a monthly stipend as well as health insurance. Lee called the construction projects students engaged in at NIPA as “impressive” and said students had demonstrated valuable marketable qualities. He said also that the ministry is committed to ensuring that students reap the benefit of their efforts and said authorities need to get serious about compliance.
NIPA Director Sergio Blomont told graduates that while they are now fully qualified and skilled labourers, they should go out as explorers. He said the graduates were skilled to be able to head out in the different communities to be recognised as “agents of change.”
Student Jonathan Casimir, who addressed guests, said some in the group of graduates entered the programme with prior experience, but whether they were competent or not, they are all no longer the same. “In some way or the other, at one point or another we’ve learned, we’ve improved, we’ve gained confidence. All for the betterment of ourselves and the rebuilding of country St. Maarten. The potential for greatness lies in each of us. It is our responsibility to absorb, to refine, to enhance, to build on what we’ve learned,” Casimir said. “We had some excellent teachers… All have contributed to our development.”
He urged his fellow graduates to “stay sharp like a pencil and make sure your lines are straight. Some things you just need to take your saw and trim off. Don’t waste time on something you know won’t work. When nails of fear arise, knock it away with the hammer of courage. Not everything in life is square, plumb or level so you may need to T-level your abilities for success… There’s a scripture that says the race is not for the swift, but for those who endure to the end… though this is the end of our course, it is certainly not the end to the vast knowledge available forthcoming. Therefore, it’s only the beginning.”
Representatives from a number of organisations attended the ceremony. Dignitaries included Marcel Gumbs, Director of the National Recovery Programme Bureau Claret Conner and Ministers Miklos Giterson, Cornelius de Weever and Stuart Johnson, amongst other dignitaries. Several other persons delivered remarks at the ceremony including Advanced Vocational Education (AVE) Board President Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson, Connor and others.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/85067-78-now-skilled-in-construction-field