By Andrew Coakley/BIS
With major construction projects slated to take place throughout The Bahamas this summer and beyond, by companies from around the United States and Canada, the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) is looking to have a number of Bahamians certified in time to be employed on these upcoming projects.
The statement came from President of BTVI, Dr. Robert Robertson, during a courtesy call on the Minister for Grand Bahama, Hon. Ginger Moxey on Thursday, January 20, in the Office of the Prime Minister.
“I’ve been contacted by companies from the United States, Canada and elsewhere looking for 500 certified Bahamians by June 2022,” Dr. Robertson told Minister Moxey, during the courtesy call. “I know that’s a tight window, but with the schedule that we have and with the NCCER program that we have, called the National Center for Construction Education and Research, we anticipate that we can meet the demands of the industry by June 2022.
“That’s for construction of major facilities in The Bahamas. One of them has already been announced, which is the Disney project in Eleuthera. The company doing that construction is called American Bridge and they’ve committed to hiring some 350 Bahamians. While they’re hoping that all of those Bahamians are residents of Eleuthera, we know that there will be other Bahamians, from other islands, who will be called in to work on that project. Some of those Bahamians will come from right here in Grand Bahama.”
Minister Moxey said that the news was exciting, not just for Grand Bahama, but for the entire Bahamas, adding that the Ministry for Grand Bahama has long partnered with BTVI, which has played a key role in Grand Bahama by training a number of professionals when it came to technological and vocational studies.
“So, we are delighted to have Dr. Robertson and his team here today visiting with us,” said Minister Moxey. “BTVI visited back in December and we discussed a number of innovative projects for Grand Bahama Island. We consider Grand Bahama to be the innovation capital of The Bahamas, where a lot of positive programs will be piloted and that will allow us to really reach our full potential.”
“We look to really partner with BTVI moving forward, to get a lot more programs going. And many of them include maritime programs, solar energy programs. They include what we consider to be the built environment and we’re looking at models like those in Nova Scotia, which we will discuss further on how we can make a campus here that will allow us to have diversified programs here on our island.
“We’re also looking at partnerships and development, because that’s something that we speak of a lot in this ministry, where we want to work with NGOs, Corporate Bahamas and organizations like BTVI in order to assist our island and our residents in moving forward. So, there are a number of projects that we have on the drawing board that we’re going to be working closely with BTVI on and we’re hoping that Grand Bahama can really set the stage for these programs to happen throughout the country.”
Dr. Robertson met with the Superintendent of BTVI in Grand Bahama on Friday morning, where they discussed plans to start a second cohort of NCCER students, with hopes of being able to stream them into some of the upcoming major projects set to take place this summer.
He said it was a significant opportunity because various companies are expected to be involved in those projects.
“It’s important that these people be certified, because the companies coming in want certified construction specialists and we have the way forward to do that with high school students, but also with those who recently left the workforce who will need that training for those jobs,” said Dr. Robertson.
“We’re also working with labor on precisely the same point in Eleuthera and Exuma. So, this will be spread around within The Bahamas, but it certainly will have a big impact on Grand Bahama. I think we’re ready for that. We’re excited about it. We’re confident that we will be able to meet the demands of these big construction projects in the Bahamas.”
In updating Minister Moxey on some of the other new programs BTVI has launched, Dr. Robertson said some are related to sustainability, like the solar energy program, which was mentioned by the Minister in her remarks. He added that BTVI is working with a school in the United States on an allied health program.
As such, he informed Minister Moxey that a number of visitors from the New England School of Technology are expected in Grand Bahama in two weeks to assess how best to set up the program to fit the Grand Bahama campus.
“Most schools from the United States, when they talk about coming to The Bahamas, usually just focus on going to Nassau, which we are going to ensure does not happen anymore,” Dr. Robertson assured the Grand Bahama Minister.
“We’re making sure that these schools come to Freeport. We really think there is a market here in Grand Bahama for Allied health and that market can also go back to other islands in The Bahamas. So, I’m delighted to confirm that today. They will be here around February 8 and I will be in touch with the PS here in the Office of the Prime Minister. Hopefully, we will get a chance to visit with you Minister Moxey.”
BTVI, Grand Bahama has some 500 students enrolled for this semester, with expectations that by next year, the program would grow to a thousand active students. The school held its first graduation ceremony on Grand Bahamas last year, where students from that graduating class have gone on to colleges and universities like Georgia Tech, Michigan, Perdue and others on scholarship funds, in addition to advanced credits.