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Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) board member Evelyn Smith (front right), presents a cheque to Mount Alvernia High School's vice-principal, Jeanette Dobson Vernon, to fund development of the school's tourism skills-training programme. Standing in support are senior students of the school and head of Home Economics, Barbara Singh (second left).

TEF funds Mt Alvernia $5m skills-training programme

The Mount Alvernia High School (MAHS) is all set to establish a Language Lab and a food and nutrition department under the Tourism Enhancement Fund's (TEF) tourism skills-training programme.

The TEF is putting more than $5 million into the MAHS project, and TEF board member, Evelyn Smith, handed over a cheque to school vice-principal, Jeanette Dobson Vernon, following a tour of the facilities to house the programme.

TEF executive director, Clyde Harrison, said the project arose out of a concern by the board of directors that "the product that we deal with for tourism is not just the physical. We have to be also concerned about the human capacity to play their role in tourism. We fundamentally believe that every child is a promise and we need to find a way to facilitate that and to develop excellence within certain disciplines that will ultimately lead to excellence within the industry."

Real work scenarios

He explained, with that commitment, TEF has identified a number of feeder schools for the tourism industry "to see where we could add resources to develop what the children would be encountering as they seek jobs in the sector".

Harrison added, "Frankly, it makes no sense that you have somebody that is in a food setting, but doesn't really see or experience the real thing that they would be see being in a hotel kitchen."

For its part, Dobson Vernon said Mount Alvernia was moving away from being a purely grammar school.

"We're looking at the fact that even though we are a grammar school, the world is catering for people with skills to fill available jobs. Over the years, we have been trying to move gradually from the grammar school portfolio and more into a comprehensive technical portfolio in terms of subjects offered."

The need was seen for a Language Lab to improve on passes, also to phase in Caribbean Vocational Qualification as part of its examining body.

"What comes with that is portfolio learning and a lot of practical hands-on work, so we're phasing in clothing and textiles. Now they're doing fashion designing, and eventually, we're going to have food and nutrition," she added.

With the TEF contribution, the number of students doing food and nutrition will double from 60 to 120, while about 40 are expected to take on clothing and textiles. 

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