“Quality Vocational, Technical Education: Antidote to Poverty Reduction…”

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Wynfred Russell, BWI's 68th Commencement Keynote Speaker

–Says BWI’s 68th commencement speaker

Wynfred Russell, 68th commencement speaker of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), described quality vocational and technical education as an antidote to poverty and national underdevelopment.

Mr. Russell, a member of the City Council of Brooklyn Minnesota, USA, said with BWI being anchored, it will hugely contribute to poverty reduction across the country.

He said BWI through its vision to be the center of “Excellence for vocational and technical education,” has played an important role in assisting many qualified Liberians to achieve their goals.

Mr. Russell said the institution has been at the forefront of Liberia’s development, and ensuring that it continues the history, indicating that it is imperative that graduates possess the requisite skills as a result of cutting edge tools and adequately paid instructors, technicians and craftsmen that possess the dexterity of industrial technical training.

He said the potential partnership between BWI and Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park, (a vocational institution in Minnesota), when concluded, will take the institution to the next level in vocational education preparedness.

Mr. Russell observed that for a sound academic strategy to be in place, it is important to link workforce development and employment strategies with market needs and opportunities. He said programs offering vocational training and employment opportunities should include those initiatives to match market requirements, and opportunities whose approach not only requires designing a quality training process that builds women’s technical and soft skills, but also enlists the commitment of employers to hire them upon graduation.

Mr. Russell pointed out that females, as equal to their male counterparts, must have access to financial assistance, and have unlimited opportunities to gain education, knowledge and skills that will lead to economic equity.

He further told BWI to explore the factors that contribute to women’s economic empowerment, and examine four main approaches- retention, life skill, social support strategies and employment.

He added, “Although most female primarily entered the workforce to support their families financially, studies have shown that they also value mobility, opportunities for friendship, and greater autonomy that may come with employment. Therefore, safe and appropriate supporting academic programs can strengthen their economic status, while improving their well-being and future job prospects.”

“The world is constantly changing, and it seems like only yesterday the cassette and compact discs were the biggest range; today it is bluetooth technology, and cloud computing and tomorrow, I am sure, will bring something new. We are already looking at self driving cars in America now,” he said.

Mr. Russell then called on the government to value technical education, “because it is increasingly being recognized by governments around the word.”

He recommended that, for the government to combat the scourge of poverty in Liberia, and develop the nation’s workforce, they must review vocational education policy to strengthen national development, transform BWI into a full-fledged technical college (after 90 years, it is way past time), integrate vocational and technical training programs into general education and facilitate nationally certified training in small business enterprise, ensure that vocational education is more market driven; it is imperative that the government involve organization in the formulation of the curricula, and in the certification of skills offered and the government must invest in modernizing BWI’s laboratories and infrastructure.

Sweden Ambassador to Liberia, Ingrid Wetterqvist, recalled how BWI has produced many great men and women around the world like Mr. Kenneth Best, founder and publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper, and many other top performers in their respective fields.

She pledged the government of Sweden’s support to BWI to ensure that they maintain their status in producing useful men and women in technical and vocational education.

Mr. Best, in brief remarks, said the Board of Governors is proud of the ‘Class of 2019’ and prayed that they will peruse their dreams in the world of technical and vocational education.

He therefore appealed to the government to continuously support BWI financially because, in the last budget, they cut the subsidy of the institute from US$700,000 to US$66,000, which he said is a wrong way to treat the nation’s oldest vocational institute.

Mr. Best the called on the Board of Governors to work closely with the principal to make sure the government, which is the chief supporter of BWI, keeps the school’s doors open to the public to help Liberians gain quality vocational education.

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