Special kudos are due to this year’s graduates, many of whom have demonstrated remarkable perseverance to finish school after Hurricane Irma.
Their challenges, we suspect, are far from over.
Nevertheless, the territory needs them now more than ever, and we hope that they will stick around and take full advantage of the opportunities available in the post-Irma landscape.
Graduates looking for work will enter a job market that has changed dramatically since last year’s storms. On the one hand, there are fewer jobs in many sectors. Several hospitality businesses, including most large resorts, remain closed, as do various service firms and other companies.
On the other hand, the storm has created booms in industries like construction, boat repair and salvaging, auto work, cleaning and so on. Additionally, new businesses are popping up regularly, suggesting that the recovery period is fertile ground for industrious entrepreneurs.
For any graduates who plan to further their education, this is also a good time to return to school. The options here in the Virgin Islands range from short courses at HLSCC — many of which were launched after Irma to teach skills needed in the recovery effort — to bachelor’s degrees available through HLSCC’s partnerships with overseas institutions.
Travelling abroad for higher education is another option, and many online courses offer flexible hours that allow part-time studies to be undertaken while working a full-time job.
Even after Irma, Virgin Islanders and belongers still have many perks, including free tertiary education, ease of travel to the United Kingdom and other countries for study or work, and first preference for any position in the territory for which they are qualified.
Whatever they undertake, they should do their best and maintain a positive attitude, always keeping in mind that even the humblest job might serve unexpectedly as a springboard to something bigger.
Employers also need to step up to the plate by providing training and other accommodation for young people. Any such investment is likely to pay off manifold in the long term by encouraging graduates to remain in the territory and thus helping to build a stronger local workforce.
Many of this year’s graduates have overcome gruelling challenges to come this far. The lessons they learned along the way will no doubt serve them well as they move into an uncertain future. We wish them all the luck in the world.