I will like to liken this experience as an experience similar to a child birth experience. In 2008 the idea for higher education, SBO education was conceived by the then staff of the Division for Educational Innovations (DEI) of which the present head of USONA and myself were part of a team at DEI. Like any expectant couple, much research, feasibility studies were done before we made an announcement of our intent to our parents (alias – the Executive Council at that time) in the form of an advice requesting permission to establish within the Division, an SBO Service Center, to be tasked with the realization of the introduction of SBO level education and the establishment of an SBO institute.
The parents gave their approval and then we turned to the god parents or (the funders of the cooperation program for education and youth) to extend the funding for vocational education in St. Maarten to include a project for SBO level education. So the god parents cautiously consented and we were able to put forward an SBO project and so the SBO baby was conceived. During the gestation phase there were several moments of anxiety, discussions and requests for we realized that to bring forth the type of baby we were carrying we needed to have access to more fund available for a proper delivery to take place.
However, as the baby was born and started to grow, it soon became apparent that one day soon it would need a home of its own and that a whole new investment will be needed to provide the necessary home for this growing child. This is where it really became difficult and much energy, blood sweat and tears as I mentioned before was shed in an effort to convince the god- parents that they too needed to assist in investing in that new home for the growing child. To continue with my analogy the new home is ready, life for this child has limitless possibilities.
I want to end by saying to the board, staff and students of this institute that the government, the kingdom partners, parents, businesses, and our neighboring islands are looking at you and there is great expectation. There is the expectation that you will provide within these walls solutions or partial solutions to many of the social and economic problems.
We are expecting that through well researched and needs assessment that you will contribute to raising the standards of skills of the people of this country by providing the necessary training at all levels, in the most needed fields of skills, expertise and services that this country needs.
We are expecting that this institute will produce a skilled workforce as well as professional experts in all the fields that will contribute to the economic development of this country.
We expect this institute to help to mitigate the present problems we have in importing skilled labour by providing the type of courses and training that will build the competency of our local work force so that one day soon in the future we will see a reduction in the number of persons that we are presently recruiting from abroad.
We expect that this institute will provide opportunities to training our young people to become entrepreneurs and inventors.
We expect this institute to provide a second chance for those who did not make it the first time in graduating from secondary school but who have a strong desire to become employable now that they are a bit more mature.
We expect this institute to have a dynamic relationship with the business world, working together to help raise the level of productivity, expertise in this island.
And as we take part in the physical delivery of these beautiful buildings, state of the art equipment, let us not forget the blood sweat and tears that have gone into this and the expectation and awesome responsibility that comes with it.
I once more congratulate the board of the NIPA, the staff of the Division of Educational Innovations, the department of new works of VROMI, all the contractors , engineers, the facility manager, the past and present governments that have given their full support to this endeavor, the youth of St. Maarten, USONA, Mr. Wawoe, the new staff of the NIPA and the general public of St. Maarten on the occasion of the handing over of advance vocational institute on this day November 26th 2013.
Thank you for your indulgence and god bless all those who will work here and pass through these doors in the future.