“Imagination is a factory that builds legends,” said newly confirmed H. Lavity Stoutt Community College President Dr. Richard Georges, quoting his favourite rapper, Jay Electronica, on Friday. “You have to be creative enough and courageous enough to do what it takes to build something that only you can envision.”
Dr. Georges — who was confirmed as the HLSCC president this month after acting in the role for nearly a year — spoke of the college’s vision Friday during the handover ceremony for a $100,000 cheque from the BVI Tourist Board in order to establish the new Tourism Certification Training Programme.
Thanks to the funding, 1,000 students will be able to enrol in courses for free, BVITB Chairwoman Kenisha Sprauve said during the ceremony. She and other speakers expressed hope that the programme would help jump-start a tourist indus- try that has been hammered by Covid-19 restrictions.
“Not only does this collaboration allow us to leverage each entity’s strength, but it represents a significant milestone that will be beneficial to the tourism and the hospitality industry in our economy at this difficult time,” she said.
The programme follows a memorandum of understanding the two organisations signed in May, which requires the college to provide training and development for tourism industry professionals over the next three years.
Dr. Georges responded by saying that there has been “some real momentum generated” recently in the areas of culinary arts and hospitality.
Keshia Davis-Barnes, director of culinary arts and hospitality studies at the college, said that momentum has been developed through a partnership between the college, the BVITB, and two United States-based organisations from which students will be able to earn certification: the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute and the National Restaurant Association.
The upcoming reopening of the borders to tourists, and the knowledge that the global pandemic will continue to present challenges to the industry, was not lost on the presenters.
“As we begin to welcome visitors back to our beautiful shores on December 1 to mesmerise them with our authentic BVI love, it is imperative that workers in the tourism sector have an opportunity to sharpen their skills and become certified within the areas of discipline,” Ms. Davis-Barnes said.
The programme, she added, will begin this month and take place on Tortola and the sister islands through both online and face-to-face lessons using all necessary Covid-19 precautions.
She added that the first cohort would be offered 180-hour, classroom-based courses geared toward employees working in line-level positions such as restaurant servers, cooks, guest room attendants and front-desk
attendants, as part of the Skills, Tasks, and Results Training for Individual Positions Curriculum offered by AHLEI.
However, the programme will soon expand to encompass executive and managerial positions, she said.
Junior Minister for Tourism Sharie de Castro also spoke.
“We are not naïve,” she said. “And so we understand that considerable challenges remain ahead, especially with the unknown duration of the pandemic and the global travel restrictions. … This is us putting our money where our mouth is.”
Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley — who is also minister of education, culture, youth affairs, fisheries and agriculture — agreed that the programme would assist with the terri- tory’s economic recovery.
“Covid-19 has given us some good body blows, but it’s kind of like Muhammad Ali when he was up against George Foreman, and he gave him the rope-a- dope,” he said. “We got some good shots.”
In his remarks, Premier An- drew Fahie said that the programme was a long time in coming and did not simply sprout up due to the current circumstances.
“On Dec. 1, we have to sit together, and we are doing so many meetings together behind the scenes. … It was ‘plenty planning,’” he said.
Addressing Dr. Georges, the premier said, “I salute you … because had you not caught the vision, we would not be here today and we’d be looking for another avenue to train our people to live and work in Covid-19.”