Never before have we envisaged such a broad-based form of financial support for our high school graduates making their way into institutions of post-secondary education, and to graduates preparing themselves for employment.
That St. Kitts and Nevis continues to lead the OECS sub-region, the wider CARICOM region and much of the world, including the developed world, in economic growth and development is testimony to the quality of the human resource that we have been able to nurture at home thereby engendering an environment in which this desirable growth can take place. It is through education, training and professional development that our people have been enabled, given the capacity, to be young professionals – engineers, medical doctors, accountants, lawyers, businessmen and –women, farmers, educators, security specialists, tradesmen and women, and so much more.
The unprecedented development that we have witnessed in the tourism sector, the education sector, the construction industry, the agricultural sector, the trades sector, and other important economic sectors has been fostered by the human capacity in the public and private sectors of our little Federation. Every productive human being in this country has made an important contribution to our recent achievements. The investment we collectively make is not just for today, but it is a long term investment that is intended to keep our growth in the positive direction for many, many years to come. I speak of the sustainable growth and development of our Federation.
Sustainable social and economic development requires a well-trained and productive workforce. Therefore, opportunities must be provided for individuals to pursue their education beyond the compulsory high school level. Along with access to higher education, skills must match the needs of employers and the developmental demands of a country if training is to have meaningful impact on our long-term development prospects. Additionally, persons entering the labour market must be properly oriented to make the adjustment to the new work environment. The outstanding academic achievements and the overall upbringing and socialization of our school-leavers do not by themselves always give adequate preparation for the world of work. These are some of the critical barriers that we must shatter as we seek to catapult our economy and our way of life to new and more prosperous levels.
Today, I take immense pride in announcing that working in collaboration with the SIDF, a vehicle for assisting in the modern transformation of St. Kitts and Nevis, your government has fashioned a programme dubbed the R-E-A-C-H programme – Recognising Everyone’s Ability to Climb Higher, a programme geared towards boosting post-secondary education and training across the entire Federation.
The REACH programme, through the provision of two-year scholarships and grant financing, creates opportunities for students in the Federation leaving Secondary School to easily pursue higher academic learning and certified technical and vocational training. Secondly, for our students graduating from our post-secondary institutions seeking employment, the REACH Programme helps them to pursue short-term professional and life and work skills training, so critically important for the development of a competitive and efficient workforce. Never again will a parent’s inability to finance an education at the CFBC, the Nevis Sixth Form College, the AVEC, or any other post-secondary training programme in St. Kitts and Nevis, limit their children’s chances of pursuing higher education and acquiring skills that prepare them for the world of work.
As a tribute to the outstanding achievements of our students in the 2014 CXC examinations, a separate report of which is imminent, and the examinations in recent years, at O’Level and at CAPE, the R-E-A-C-H programme (Recognising Everyone’s Ability to Climb Higher) will be implemented in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis at the start of the new academic year, September 2014.
I therefore announce further that as of September 2014, every high school student enrolling in the CFBC or the Nevis Sixth Form College will be provided with a basic yearly academic allowance in the amount of EC$2,500.00 to assist them in meeting their financial obligations associated with post-secondary education.
To go further to encourage students to strive for excellence and to raise the bar with respect to minimum qualification among our young people in St. Kitts and Nevis, the government has decided to award an additional EC$250.00 to the student for every CXC/CSEC subject passed above five subject passes up to 8 subjects passes, and further, an additional EC$100.00 for every subject pass above 8 subjects passes. Further, to boost student enrolment in special interest areas of study, students who enroll at college to study any two of the following subjects – Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Foreign Languages – will receive an additional EC$1000.00 per year as a special incentive for pursuing these subjects.
Let me use an example to clarify the award. A student from the SSS, for example, who passes 10 subjects and is enrolling at the CFBC to study Mathematics and Biology, two of the special interest areas, among other subjects, will receive EC$2,500.00 for his basic academic allowance, a further EC$750.00 for the 3 additional passes above 5 subject passes, and EC$200 for the additional two subject passes above eight subject passes, for a total academic allowance of EC$3450.00 for each academic year.
To reiterate, in an attempt to boost post-secondary enrolment and to give adequate preparation for our young people for the world of work and for university level education later, this award scheme is available to secondary school graduates who are pursuing post-secondary education at the CFBC or the Nevis Sixth Form College.
Citizens all, our country’s rapid development and advancement requires that we make every citizen even more productive. Hence, there must also be equal attention given to skills development and technical and vocational education and training. Therefore, students graduating from Form 5 at High School and who are enrolling at AVEC to pursue the Caribbean Vocational Qualification or CVQ programme will be provided a grant in the amount of EC$2,000.00 per academic year to assist them in their pursuit. Students transferring from AVEC to the CFBC under this important REACH programme will also be given the same assistance.
We are building knowledge; we are building skills; we are building character; and we are building a better community. In the pursuit of these goals, student awardees attending AVEC will be expected to perform a minimum of four hours per month volunteer service at an approved charitable/non-profit organization of their own choosing. Indeed, we do anticipate as a consequence a catalysis of charitable/non-profit organizations in St. Kitts and Nevis, henceforth.
To be certain, these awards are also available to those students who are already enrolled at CFBC, AVEC and the Nevis Sixth Form College, and are in their second year or repeating Year 1 starting in 2014.
The REACH programme (Recognising Everyone’s Ability to Climb Higher) does not cater only to students enrolling at the CFBC, the Nevis Form College or AVEC. It also caters to students who are leaving these institutions and are preparing themselves for the world of work. This government believes that adequate attention must also be paid to preparing young people for the world of work. This makes for a highly productive workforce serving both the private and public sectors whose efficiency is so fundamental to our continued rapid economic evolution.
As a result, students who graduate from Fifth Form, AVEC, CFBC or the Nevis Sixth Form College and intend to seek employment in that same year, are entitled to an award in the amount of EC$1,400.00 per month to enroll in a three-month Professional Training programme. These students must enroll:
1. To receive advanced-level training leading to a Microsoft Office Specialist Certification, facilitated by local Microsoft certified business specialists.
2. To pursue certified training courses and workshops in Life and Work Skills, facilitated by the University of the West Indies Open Campus in St. Kitts and Nevis.
We believe in the empowerment of people through education and training, and at this pivotal moment is our nation’s development, we offer this innovative and life-changing REACH programme – Recognising Everyone’s Ability to Climb Higher, that will benefit over one thousand students of our beautiful Federation as they seek to advance themselves.
In closing, the overall objectives of the REACH programme are:
1. To provide equitable access to post secondary education for qualified students;
2. To build competencies that match employment needs in our Federation;
3. To further reduce the rate of unemployment among the youth;
4. To develop the skill sets to advance the transition of our country to a services-oriented economy;
5. To assist job seekers to adapt readily to the work environment;
6. To create opportunities for self-employment through certified vocational and technical training; and
7. To accelerate the effective implementation of the Caribbean Vocational Qualification programme, CVQ, to guarantee the marketability of skilled certification, and facilitate our citizens’ integration into the new and emerging CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
I take this opportunity to encourage every qualifying student in St. Kitts and in Nevis to apply for the REACH scholarship via the SIDF website at WWW.SKNSIDF.ORG. The closing date for application for this year 2014 is 10th September.
Just before you rush to the computer to begin the application process, may I inform you that a number of imeetings will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, August 19th and 20th, to share more information and advice on the REACH programme.
(i) Tuesday, August 19 at 10 a.m. – Meeting in St. Kitts with 2014 school-leavers who are seeking employment.
(ii) Tuesday, August 19 at 5 p.m. – Meeting with Students (and their parents) in St. Kitts
(iii) Wednesday, August 20 at 5 p.m. – Meeting with AVEC students and their parents in St. Kitts
(iv) Wednesday, August 20 at 10 a.m. – Meeting in Nevis with 2014 school-leavers seeking employment.
(v) Wednesday, August 20 at 5 p.m. – Meeting with Nevis Sixth Form College students (and parents) in Nevis
The venue for all meetings in St. Kitts is the Wesley Methodist Church Hall, Seaton Street, Basseterre.
The venue for all meetings in Nevis is the St. Paul’s Anglican Church Hall, Main Street, Charlestown.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone of you a most successful academic year 2014-2015, and if you are entering the world of work this year, bountiful success in your new work environment.
Thanks for listening and may God continue to bless us all.