Proactive steps to reverse a high employment rate that reaches up to 70% in some areas, strengthen a workforce that is largely unskilled, and decrease a poverty rate that is a little over 20%, are strong commitments embraced by three non-profit organizations.
The creation of the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI), through a partnership with One Eleuthera Foundation and The South Eleuthera Mission, is a catalyst for helping to reverse those trends and positively impact Eleuthera. In just 13 months, the accomplishments of CTI have quickly been recognized at local and international levels.
In early 2016, CTI became the first tertiary education facility to serve Eleuthera with several training and skills programs that are accredited by the National Accreditation and Equivalency Council of The Bahamas (NAECOB). Their training areas include housekeeping, landscaping, farming, carpentry, plumbing and electrical. Math and English preparation courses for BJC and BGCSE exams, introduction to computers, life enrichment and student life are part of the curriculum.
Situated on the old Rock Sound Club property that was once a booming facility 30 years ago, the work being done there has created a live lab setting for up to 60 students and 10 instructors to date.
Those efforts were showcased at an open house held on March 5, 2017 where 50 plus visitors toured the property’s first stage of hotel renovations, classrooms as well as establishment of a 4 acre-farm.
Nearly $3.5 million, primarily towards the purchase, renovation and improvement of the 40-acre Rock Sound Club has been invested into CTI and establishment of the school. Twelve acres were cleared and landscaped and infrastructure work was done that included restoration to 3 cottages that offer 12 rooms for rental income, 1 cottage with 4 rooms for office and classroom space, a staff center with IT room, trainee lounge, and a sick bay and a laundry room. A center with 10 offices, 2 bathrooms, conference rooms, and a kitchen were also completed.
Moving into their next phase, CTI, is currently seeking $1.4 million for renovations of an additional 8 rooms at the hotel, install an IT infrastructure and repair the large half-size Olympic swimming pool to ready it for guests and a swim club.
Donations and income generating activities are core contributors towards CTI’s viability. One hundred percent profit is realized from sales deriving from farm produce, furniture made or services provided. A donation of $385 provides 1 tool kit for a student, one of $17,000 furnishes a carpentry workshop and an $18,000 donation will train and apprentice a CTI student for 1 year.
“CTI’s main areas of focus are education, training and economic support,” said Shaun Ingraham, chairman and president. “When people can see how the funds are being used, and the positive impact being made, it’s a win-win for all.”
In February 2016, the ratio of male and female students out of 58 was equal. In December, out of 25 students, 40% were female. Traditional vocations commonly held by men are now of interest to women of all ages. Mavis Munnings, a carpentry student, who is in her early 60’s, spoke about her new passion. “Since I liked working with my hands, I took up carpentry. I have assisted with making the headboards for the hotel and helped with the construction of a shed for the farm.” Younger student Cercelia beamed, “I am a woman and I never dreamed that I would be an electrician. Being a female electrician shows that you can do anything.”
Cercelia’s electrical instructor Stephen Galanis had taught at Central High School before moving to CTI. He spoke about his experience with pride. “It is much more rewarding touching the lives of young men and women. This is a different way of making a difference,” said Galanis. “We have become a safety net to these students. It’s a chance for them to learn a trade and real skills that are marketable.”
Sentiments of new beginnings were also echoed by Errol McPhee, chief executive officer of CTI, and a long-time educator. “For many, being a part of CTI is a second chance,” he explained. “Some had not completed high school or had the opportunity to improve educationally or as individuals. With our learn and earn program, we target the 50% to 70% of secondary school leavers who are most likely unemployable and assist them by providing a vocation that will help them earn a living.”
Currently, CTI’s major program is the learn and earn program that is unique to vocational education in The Bahamas. Students attend courses for 2 days per week and work in their trade while earning a stipend for the remaining 4 days. CTI states that it is an effective approach that improves educational attainment and promotes a locally employed workforce. The certificate of achievement for the learn and earn program includes 10 steps that build character and improves lives. They are: demonstrably upgrading in literacy and numeracy, developing a technical skill that would afford entry into field of study, developing a life plan and budget, establishing a bank account and a savings goal, obtaining standard forms of identification (E.g. voter’s card and a passport), achieving computer literacy, completing CPR/first aid training, BahamaHost training and completing 50 volunteer hours.
Support from The South Eleutheran Mission with an afterschool literacy and numeracy intervention program aids students for their literacy and numeracy requirement. Assistant program coordinator, Ade Pinder explained, “Twenty-five percent of the students were operating at a reading level below their grade. Through our education literacy and numeracy intervention program, we worked together in an afterschool program and there has been a 77% success rate.”
So far, an average of 81% of the trainees have passed their academic courses with an average grade of 75%. All students have created budgets compared to none when they first enrolled. Many have also set up bank accounts with the One Eleuthera Cooperative Credit Union, another organization working to positively change some of the negative trends of this small island state.
Other programs at CTI include workshops and certificate courses for CTI’s affiliates, local non-profits and the public. The Retreat that is CTI’s hotel and Eleuthera Community Farms (ECF) is an operation that offers education and a commerce aspect where food is grown for learning and economic purposes. Plans for a canning factory will complement the use of crops grown on the farm.
Ingraham and McPhee believe that CTI is a driver of innovation and a creator of economic opportunities and social entrepreneurship for a more viable economy in Eleuthera. They seek to expand offerings and at present are reviewing programs in entrepreneurship, hospitality, nonprofit management, and administration and construction, with Institutions like University of Delaware, Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, Drury University and Kent University.
For more information, visit www.oneeleuthera.org/CTI/projects or call 242-334-2703.
Written by: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry