Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
Our education revolution is my Government’s proudest achievement.
We are determined to develop the North and end the decades of neglect by previous Governments and provide people with the services they deserve.
Whether it is better access to education, healthcare, electricity, water, better roads or better telecommunications, the Fiji First Government is intent on giving the people of the North the same level of services as anyone on Viti Levu.
We are determined to do whatever is necessary to enable the North to achieve its full potential. To give its people not only better services but every reason for them and their children to stay in the North and develop this wonderful part of Fiji for themselves and for future generations.
A key pillar of that better future is education and training.
Therefore, I am delighted that we now have this specialist Technical College in Labasa to increase the skills of the young people of the North and the skills base of the entire region.
We have provided free schooling at Primary and Secondary School level and scholarships and student loans for higher education. But until now, we have lacked the facilities to provide students with enough opportunities to gain qualifications in the trades.
Every nation must create a viable future for people to become electricians, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, welders and all those other things needed.
A glaring need
We begin filling a glaring need especially in the North for more opportunities for students to gain Level Two Certificate qualifications in the various trades.
To date, we have had basic skills opportunities at one end in private colleges and advanced skills opportunities at the other at the Fiji National University.
But we needed much broader access in the middle to Level Two technical qualifications than we have had in the past. With these campuses around the country, we will be able to provide the requisite opportunities.
We are raising the standards of our tradesmen and women throughout Fiji by giving them better access to formal qualifications under the umbrella of the Technical College of Fiji.
There is a bonus for people of Labasa; they no longer have to go to Suva to access Level Two Certificates in the various trades.
We will need more qualified and certified plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other skilled people as the economy improves and the opportunities in the North expand.
This is a vital capacity building exercise in the North as well as an unprecedented opportunity for our young people to achieve viable and sustainable livings and happy and worthwhile lives.
I also told our young people in Nadi recently that I want to fire their imaginations about what is possible for their own self-fulfilment if they take advantage of the opportunities the Fiji First Government is giving them.
We will always need those professionals who gain qualifications in our universities to become teachers, doctors, lawyers and the other tertiary disciplines. But building an army of skilled tradespeople is just as important for our national development.
I say to parents, “Do not just encourage your child to only become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. If they show any aptitude or interest in a trade, encourage them to take that path. No job, no profession is any less than the other.”
We need builders and carpenters as much as we need members of the traditional professions. We are already experiencing a shortage of tradespeople and this shortage will hold our economy back if we do not act now to fill that shortage.
Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is Prime Minister of Fiji. The above is an extract of his speech at the opening of the Technical College of Fiji at the Arya Samaj Campus in Vanua Levu on April 7, 2015.