CDB-funded project positions Jamaican university to be region’s premier tech institute

The University of Technology Jamaica (UTech) has big plans for its future, including continued developments that stakeholders believe could position the institution with other globally renowned tertiary tech giants.

Only 19 percent of Jamaicans aged 19 to 24 are currently enrolled in tertiary institutions, and only 15 percent of the workforce have a tertiary education. However, after a recently completed expansion and enhancement project financed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), enrollment at UTech increased. The project has cemented hopes that the college can be a springboard to drive education, training and certification to increase productivity and prosperity in Jamaica, particularly by adding to the number of Jamaicans entering the workforce in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“We are graduating overall, across all of our universities less than 500 engineers, so the STEM areas are totally underrepresented.  We have to lead a revolution to infuse STEM and TVET in the curriculum so we make science and technology something that our students aspire to. And we as Caribbean people and Jamaicans can conquer the world of math and science. And the University of Technology will become the new MIT of the Caribbean and the Latin American region,” said Senator, the Hon. Ruel Reid, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Jamaica, while delivering the keynote address at the official opening of the new facilities last Thursday.

Professor Stephen Vasciannie, President, UTech, first left; Senator, the Hon. Ruel Reid, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, centre and UTech’s Chancellor, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Edward Seaga, third from right, discuss UTech’s new and improved facilities with Stepehen Lawrence, Operations Officer (Civil Engineer), Social Sector Division, CDB, far right.

The UTech Enhancement Project commenced in 2007 when the Government of Jamaica signed a loan agreement with CDB for a loan of US26 million (mn) to fund the development project at the University.  The Government undertook this investment as a grant to UTech, Jamaica to which the University provided counterpart funding of US17 mn.

The project proceeded under three main components of institutional strengthening, building and civil works, and furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The shared facilities building, constructed as part of the intervention, is a learning and teaching space for all colleges and faculties, and comprises 20 SMART classrooms, three state-of-the-art lecture theatres, computer laboratories, sanitary amenities and an amphitheatre.

The new amphitheatre underscores the university’s commitment to developing the quality of outdoor spaces for its students.

UTech’s President, Professor Stephen Vasciannie noted that in the college’s 60-year history, it has made significant contributions to education, training and economic growth in Jamaica, and that the expansion and enhancements are an extension of those contributions.

“We recognize the importance of development of the physical infrastructure of our campus in attracting both local and overseas students, and we are committed to ensuring that our facilities are of a standard for which we can all be proud,” he said.

Professor Vasciannie noted that the partnership established among UTech, the Government of Jamaica and the Caribbean Development Bank is key to advancing education and development in Jamaica, particularly as the country works towards attaining its Vision 2030 development goals. 

The outcomes of the partnership also directly align with Sustainable Development Goal 4 set by the United Nations, which speaks to inclusive, equitable and quality education for all.

“It is widely accepted that achieving high-quality tertiary education is necessary in a country’s bid for sustained economic and social development, and for improved competitiveness.  Jamaica’s National Development Plan, ‘Vision 2030’, envisages a highly skilled and professional workforce, capable of adapting to the demands of a competitive world environment, which is increasingly driven by knowledge accumulation and application,” said Stephen Lawrence, Operations Officer (Civil Engineer), Social Sector Division, CDB, during the official handover ceremony.

Stephen Lawrence, Operations Officer (Civil Engineer), Social Sector Division, CDB reaffirms the Bank’s commitment to advancing education in the Region.

“Given CDB’s commitment to educational advancement within the Region, we are pleased to have partnered with the Government of Jamaica in enhancing its capacity to provide quality tertiary education, through the expansion of facilities and upgrading of services, at the University of Technology, Jamaica, under the UTech Enhancement Project,” he said.