A Space for Opportunities: Knockalva Polytechnic College gains momentum with new learning lab

By Ruth Chisholm

July 5, 2021

On March 31, 2021, Knockalva Polytechnic College realized its goal of creating a practical learning space for agroprocessing students. Knockalva Polytechnic College sits on 216 acres in the rural community of Ramble and transitioned from a vocational secondary school to an institution that now offers associate degree programs. In just under three years, with guidance from the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ), Knockalva has steadily invested in expanding training in agriculture related programs.
The new agro-processing learning lab will give students access to equipment that will help them build technical skills and connect them with industry experts. Knockalva contributed renovations to the building, and with support from USAID, Advance contributed equipment including an industrial refrigerator and stove, vegetable dehydrator and grinder, vacuum sealer, and an assortment of shelving, storage, and utensils. USAID Jamaica Country Representative, Jason Fraser, addressed the audience at the learning lab opening ceremony, explaining the importance of the lab and of the Advance Program’s industry-driven focus. “[A] labor market sectors assessment helped the Advance Program to identify and focus on three industries: agribusiness, wellness tourism and creative industries. These three industries would require highly skilled and well-trained individuals…and would allow graduates to move into employment opportunities in the same areas they were qualified for.”
Siena Fleischer, Education Officer at USAID in Washington, D.C, encouraged Knockalva students to “take the opportunity to use the lab to the fullest extent.” Fleisher also encouraged them to be innovative and follow through on their entrepreneurial goals. Tiania Samuels, a Knockalava student, is already well on her way. She is pursuing an associate degree in the Agro-processing and Business Management Program and like some of her classmates, has big entrepreneurship plans. “I have already made beet root jam and wine, as well as papaya and pineapple jams,” she said. “People have tried them, and things are going well. The lab is going to give us even more practical experience.” Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, The Honorable Floyd Green added his excitement about the learning lab. “This is going to allow Knockalva to produce a better quality student, aligned to where the Ministry of Agriculture [and Jamaica] is going … some of the biggest companies in Jamaica are agro-processing companies. They need well-trained graduates!”
The Honorable Fayval Williams, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, called for more public-private partnerships to ensure technical and vocational programs are effective and for young people to gain these work experiences. Minister Williams expressed her thanks to USAID for the funding support and to the CCCJ for its coordinating role. Her message to the students was simple yet powerful, “Make it work for you. Make it work for Jamaica.

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