Published: Jul 6, 2020

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development chaired by Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory met on Monday at the Capitol Building to receive testimony and to vote on several measures regarding expanding the powers of the Virgin Islands Board of Career and Technical Education, cyberbullying, and unfair labor practices. All approved items will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Lawmakers voted and approved a measure sponsored by Sen. Frett-Gregory, Bill No. 33-0267- An Act to amend Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 23, subchapter I, section 262 relating to the powers of the Virgin Islands Board for Career and Technical Education (CTE) to strengthen and expand the alternative pathways to career readiness currently available for students in the public high schools of the Virgin Islands and to build on the career and technical (vocational) education program that allows high school students to gain exposure in their desired vocational career field, obtain national qualifications, and to incentivize qualified local businesses in the Territory to participate; as amended. Furthermore, the legislation will reduce the high school dropout rate and allow students to earn a diploma and a national certification in applicable industries. Stakeholders who shared input in this legislation are the Virgin Islands Board for Career and Technical Education University of the Virgin Islands, the Department of Labor, the Virgin Islands Department of Education, and the business sector.

Moreover, Sen. Frett-Gregory stated that the measure broadens the opportunities for students in vocational school through national certification. “This measure offers a national shift to investing in career and technical education. Strengthen and expanding technical career opportunities for students enable them to acquire skills and qualifications that are nationally certified. Furthermore, the participation of local businesses will allow hands-on experience for students that can ultimately lead to employment or entrepreneurship,” Sen. Frett-Gregory said. The V.I. Department of Education Commissioner Raquel Benjamin indicated that it is difficult to get businesses to participate and support existing vocational programs that offer on-the-job training for high school seniors. However, tax incentives may lure businesses to participate. Additional challenges are inclusive of upgrading equipment, a shortage of CTE certified instructors and acquiring full support for existing and proposed programs; according to CTE Chairman Michael Francois, Ph.D., LSSB who also expressed support for the measure. “We recognize that there is more work to do. I am a firm believer that when you take on a responsibility, leave your mark so that when you leave, folks would know that you were there,” said Sen. Frett-Gregory.

Policymakers voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 33-0311- An Act amending Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 42B, sections 780, 781 and 783 to add and expand on the educational training and awareness of bullying by including cyberbullying and electronic harassment education. -Proposed by Senator Athneil “Bobby” Thomas

Lastly, the following was removed from the agenda: Bill No. 33-0316- An Act amending Title 24 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 3, by adding section 65a expanding the acts of unfair labor practices. – Proposed by Senator Marvin A. Blyden                                                                   ###

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