Govt pushing AI, advanced technology as $220M GTI learning centre commissioned

President Dr Irfaan Ali (DPI Photo)

A spanking new Government Technical Institute (GTI) building at Woolford Avenue, Georgetown, that was constructed to the tune of $220 million, was on Friday commissioned by President Dr Irfaan Ali.

Named the Ken Subraj – Zara Training Centre, the project commenced in 2022 by Avinash Scrap Metal and Contracting Inc and aims to provide a modernised facility for students and replace an outdated structure that previously existed.

A joint venture between New York-based philanthropist Ken Subraj and the Guyana Government under a public-private partnership saw the realisation of the brand new three-storey, state-of-the-art building, with $200 million provided by Subraj and $20 million by the Education Ministry.

However, President Ali lauded the work of the Zara Foundation, which has made numerous investments in the Guyana Police Force, the University of Guyana and other key institutions. He said it is one that many corporations can take an example from.

“Giving back is part of a philosophy. It is part of the guiding principle and guiding values… This example that you see here is one that many big corporations can take a page,” Ali disclosed.

President Dr Irfaan Ali and Education Minister Priya Manickchand witnessing Zara Foundation President Ken Subraj cutting the ceremonial ribbon to the new GTI learning centre (DPI Photo)

The Head of State also zeroed in on the need to embark on digitalisation and expose students to artificial intelligence (AI) and other advancements.

“We have to start exposing our students to robotics and AI as a common part of the work environment. If we don’t incorporate that at this time, then we will be playing catch up all the rest of our lives. We have to find an innovative approach to problem-solving. The old approach stopped working. It’s not cutting it anywhere anymore. We have to find that innovative way in which we can raise financing, in which we can we can apply technology,” he highlighted.

As more attention comes to the country, he said the Government will take advantage of the possibility of partnering with major centres of excellence globally. At the same time, he called for a seamless integration across the tiers of education, such as from technical institutions to universities.

“All of this being done is to ensure that we have the full complement of institutional capacity, and, and faculty to support the development of our country and to support the creation of the skill set. So, the technical landscape, the technical education landscape is expanding.”

While the initial plan was to rehabilitate the quadrangular building on the west side of the compound, the institution had other critical needs and the plan was set in motion to construct the new building.

The ground floor consists of a lobby, offices, and a recreation space, while the two other floors are for classrooms. The building also features ramps, a pressurised water system, an air-conditioned environment, and an elevator which will adequately be able to assist persons with disabilities. Additionally, the periphery of the building was all upgraded or replaced.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand lauded this investment as a life-changing one for students who are able to study and enhance their lives.

“This is going to live on way beyond any of us here and it’s going to change lives in a meaningful way…This was timely not only for what it will do for each individual student but to complement the country’s thrust towards making skills training and TVET accessible to people.”

GTI Principal, Dr Renita Crandon-Duncan said the completion of this building is a dream achieved.

Heavily investing in technical education, she added, will see Guyana taking its rightful place amid an uprise in development and economic activities.

Today, GTI is home to some 1900 students and this new building will house the engineering students. However, talks are brewing to also offer programmes in oil and gas.

“In Guyana’s booming oil and gas economy, our engineering programmes – mechanical, electrical, civil, and land surveying are the most lucrative programmes. We see thousands of applicants each year, especially 2023, and the oil and gas companies are snatching up our students, even before they will have completed their programme. As such, an investment in these areas, among others, is feasible,” Crandon-Duncan added.

The GTI began operations in May of 1951 in temporary accommodation in the Queen’s College compound.

By July of the said year, it was removed to its present location. The original purpose of the institution was to provide training in craft skills but by July 1956, technician-level courses were introduced and by September 1961, diploma level programmes were included, bringing the total number of courses offered to thirty-eight. (Rupa Seenaraine)