By Kyle Greenham
It’s Thursday, Sept. 22, in a small and humid board room in Georgetown, Guyana. A group of Newfoundlanders began a meeting with Jerry Simpson, Senior Officer at Guyana’s Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council.
“Even though this is your final mission here, I hope the relationship will carry on,” Simpson says.
This was the first of several meetings in Guyana set to trigger the closure of a partnership the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) had started in the region more than three years previous.
Robin Walters, CNA’s Vice President of Industry and Community Engagement agreed, noting that he was both pleased that their time in Guyana had been so successful, but disappointed that CNA’s partnership in the region was now coming to an end.
It was in late 2012 that CNA was chosen by Linden Technical Institute (LTI), an institution located in the small town of Linden, Guyana, to help the school develop a heavy equipment maintenance program. This initiative was funded by Global Affairs Canada and administered by College and Institutes Canada (CICan), to provide up-to-standard training for Guyana in their mining industry and help modernize their programs for future modifications.
CNA, in partnership with Memorial University’s Marine Institute, had been selected from a large group of schools across Canada by LTI’s leadership group and TVET Council, which included current principal Shurla Brotherson and Sydney Walters, TVET’s Director.
“College of the North Atlantic and the Marine Institute were the shining star,” said Brotherson. “Many seemed only focused in mining or other specific areas, while they offered us a full package of working with equipment, operating and maintenance, safety training, work with TVET, and other areas.”
The initial challenges faced at LTI were made abundantly clear to the college on their first visit. Elizabeth Vincent, CNA’s International Business Development Manager, recalls the poor conditions the Linden institution was in when they first arrived.
“Nothing could prepare us for what we saw,” Vincent says. “In Guyana there were protests over the price of water bills, light bills, hospitals had burnt down. And Linden had nothing compared to other schools, there was no running water in the washrooms, the school had severe sewage and drainage problems, the workshop had no ceiling, classrooms had no air conditioning.”
As well, many in LTI were skeptical that the partnership would be successful.
“For so long we were supposed to put things in place in our country, but we had an economic crisis, struggles with our budget,” said Brotherson. “It took a while to get things moving, but Elizabeth and the college stood by us.”
“Lots of our staff were very skeptical that we could achieve anything,” said D’Nell Boyce, senior lecturer for the heavy equipment program at LTI. “It has been very challenging. But I was positive and optimistic that if we made the effort, we would be able to achieve and accomplish these things.”
With additional support from TVET, Guyana’s Ministry of Education, and Macorp Cat (Caterpillar), LTI was able to rebuild and renovate their workshop with a ceiling, painted floors, new tools and equipment, safety equipment like hardhats and protective glasses, a ventilation system, locker rooms, offices, and rooms for specialized training.
“This was basically just a structure, no more no less,” said Boyce. “As we stand right now, we have gone from zero to 100. There is always need for improvement, but we are thankful for what we have. This shop is now used not only as a model for the institution, but also for various institutions across Guyana.”
The partnership has been beneficial for the college as well, not only through spreading awareness and earning CNA a greater role on the international stage, but by opening up opportunities for future investments in Guyana – considering the country’s recent discovery of offshore oil reserves.
Brotherson has been grateful for the college’s support, cooperation, and perseverance throughout the partnership, and noted the improvements to the institution’s workshop are only a fraction of the changes and improvements that have been made.
“They have grown with us and we have moved to the greatest heights,” Brotherson said. “I would gladly do it all over again.”