The director of the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB) wants a plantation, but not at any cost.
Henderson Thompson made the claim as he was responding to a question posed to him by Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland during the Appropriation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 debate. His answer caused snickers and murmurs in the House of Assembly.
The Minister of Small Business asked the director: “What are we doing in terms of building out capacity and capability within the vocational training institution?”
Thompson responded: “I hope I can say it in this room, we want a plantation but we don’t want it at any cost . . . We need a plantation, that type of land at 50 acres plus that we can really offer programmes and the private sector is willing to help . . .
“If we can get the land, the private sector and other international agencies say they are willing to help us build out. The government doesn’t have to do it all on their own. We are not asking that. We are asking for assistance in getting land so that we can train young people in a number of these high demand areas in one location,” he told the Lower Chamber.
Thompson said that while BVTB knows the new programmes that should be rolled out, it remained the only tertiary institution which does not have a single physical plant.
“You can speak to a principal who can tell you that they are X place and their plant is there. BVTB has an annex because our staff has grown over the years at the Pine Road.
“I see my staff at Pine Road once in a while and then we have the centres all around the island. But the thing is for us if we can have one plant with everybody where we can manage effectively. . .”
The director said that while the institution has great plans it is hindered by capacity limitations.
“We have some great plans for vocational education in this country and like you said capacity is our greatest challenge. We have some very popular programmes at the Board and lots of young people apply for these programmes. We have a programme called International Cuisine it is being offered at All Saints, St Peter.
“We have over 300 people applying for that programme since we started it. We can only accommodate 16 people. That is what I am taking about capacity. We talk about bobcat operations which is skid steer loader. We have over 250 people applying . . . we can only take in 16 persons per year. Our problem isn’t not being able to offer the programme we have capable people to do it but we don’t have the physical capacity. . .
“I am making this plea and I promise the country as long as we can get the physical capacity we will deliver. . . We have the technical expertise in this country. We have the retired Barbados Defence Force people who can help us who are trained in maritime areas and all other areas, people who have the qualifications who can join us. We need, as with anything else, the budget to do so as well,” Thompson said.