Graduates are all smiles in their caps and gowns. Photos: Shantique Longley
By PLESHAE MCPHEE
THE Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institution (BTVI) is not “a dumping ground for low-achieving students or those who are not college material”, graduating students heard from the insititution’s first president during its recent commencement exercise.
Dr Robert W Robertson emphasised that people who have a vocation should not be frowned upon because the world needs them and their place in society is crucial. He said the quest to remove the stigma associated with technical and vocational education is gradual but progressing with the help of international organisations like J P Morgan. Earlier this year, the banking giant announced its commitment of $75m to career technical education programmes.
Dr Robertson further stressed that it is career and technical education that is a catalyst for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. “Hence, one should not consider vocational learning as a last resort for those who have failed academically. It is quite challenging,” he told the 200 graduates.
Dr Robertson highlighted examples of how BTVI has been foundation of success stories, citing Sidney Sinclair, owner of Sinclair’s Rent-A-Tool; Bernard Rolle, owner of Rolle’s Electrical; Roderick A Simms II, principal of Electrical Design and Services and an electrical contractor, and natural hairstylist and BTVI instructor, Chi-Kara Armbrister.
“In the hospitality industry, what would we do without construction workers to help build bed and breakfasts, motels, and resorts? And which organisation does not have office assistants or administrators? Furthermore, in hotels, you can find massage therapists, aestheticians, barbers, nail technicians, cosmetologists and more. These are just some of the disciplines we provide training for at BTVI,” he said.
Gowon Bowe, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, also sought to dispel the pre-established notions. “We live in an often polarised society. However, we must start cultivating a society of bold citizens, who are willing to participate in changing the course of the country.” He created his own acronym for BTVI - Boldness, Talents, Visionary and Innovation.
Mr Bowe offered the graduates advice regarding customer care and experience, adding that the smallest things make the biggest difference. “The mechanic that cleans the car before returning it, the electrician that carries all of the debris and old parts as he departs and leaves the environment as if he has never been there … the service provider that knows your name and what your preferences are even before you ask,” he said.
Angela Pratt-Rolle, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Education, praised the institution and its graduates. “BTVI exposes students to the innovative, rapidly evolving field of technical education, enabling them to be globally competitive and economically independent. So, there is no doubt that the graduates seated here have received a quality education and have been equipped with the adequate skills to join a 21st century, globally competitive workforce,” she said.
Mrs Pratt-Rolle also assured the graduates of how they are needed in the development of their country. “Some of you have learned how to install air conditioners in homes or manage the technology in an office to turn the most ordinary hair and nails into a work of art. No matter what you have learned during your time here, I can say that all of you are graduating today not just with a great education, but with the skills that will let you start your careers and skills that will make a more modern and prosperous Bahamas.”
Pleshae McPhee is an 11th grade student at St Andrew’s School and a summer student at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institution.