The Guyana Sugar Corporation’s Port Mourant Apprentice Training Centre will not be closed or divested as government is currently working to take account of the needs of the oil industry in its curriculum.
“Essentially, I would like to see how government can support this important institution so it can remain relevant in the changing times… and not become obsolete,” Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman yesterday told Stabroek News from Berbice, where he visited the school.
“There is much offshore activity in the waters near the Guyana/Suriname border and in Suriname itself so the belief is that Berbice can be a critical region for the provision of goods and services,” he added.
Expressing concern about the fate of the sugar industry here, Sunday Stabroek columnist Ian Mc Donald, in a recent letter, said he expected that the “regionally acclaimed, world-class” Centre will continue “to be well-staffed and fully operational and even expanded to meet retraining needs and the national hunger for more and more technical skills.”
“It is essential that this part of the industry is strengthened, not diluted or diminished,” he added.
Following a tour yesterday, Trotman informed that he had met with the Vice-Principal, some lecturers and other staff and related to them government’s commitment to not only keeping it but also expanding it.
“I was given a full brief on its history and the curriculum in place now. The Centre is 62 years old and the oldest and most unique of all technical institutes in the country,” he said, while noting that he expressed government’s commitment to work from every angle and through the relevant agencies and ministries to ensure that it remains relevant and open.
“Concerns were raised about it being closed if there is no influx of apprentices this year,” he explained.
According to Trotman, a follow up meeting is planned before the end of March to further discussions and to introduce potential corporate partners that Ministry of Natural Resources will seek out.
“We remain hopeful that the Centre will remain open. I should add that the staff were happy that a Minister visited and say they felt enthused that there was going to be a positive outcome,” he said.
Trotman said that he feels a personal sense of obligation to the Berbice community, given that he himself hails from that county. “Being a Berbician myself, I feel a personal sense of responsibility to ensure that the development is shared here as much as it is with other regions,” he said.
Berbice has been hard hit by the recent closure of sugar estates there.
The government had been strongly criticized for allowing the severing of the over 4,000 corporation workers without having options in place for them or evaluating the social impact of the job losses on their communities. It had also been pilloried on its unpreparedness to pay severance immediately to all the workers. Of the 4,763 severed workers, 1,851 are from the Skeldon Estate and 1,181 from Rose Hall.