Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Professor Geraldine Hodeline, principal of the western campus of the University of Technology (UTech), announced that the institution would invest more than $250 million over the next five years in developing the western campus at the Trelawny Multipurpose stadium.
Hodeline was speaking at the ceremony for the first-ever graduating class of the university's western Jamaica campus held at the Montego Bay Civic Centre on Saturday.
"It is our intention as informed stakeholders in the west to partner with other institutions like ourselves, with businesses, with NGOs and community interests, to use our research and problem-solving capabilities to help navigate Jamaica to a path of economic and social development that will hurry us along to developed-nation status ahead of the 2030 schedule," she said.
The Trelawny stadium was built to host the opening ceremony of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. It has hardly been utilised since, and the UTech has been seeking to establish its western campus at the site.
In October, former Finance Minister Audley Shaw said the former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration had erred when it refused to enter into a lease arrangement with the tertiary institution.
"I want to explicitly suggest to this Government from this forum: Don't make the mistake that the previous government made. Get the Trelawny stadium into the hands of the University of Technology immediately so that we can get it to productive use. That's what we need to do," Shaw told a meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee.
Onika Miller, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, has said discussions were taking place on how to best reposition the Trelawny stadium.
Miller said the prime minister and minister with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, had been looking at the utility of the stadium.
"There are policy discussions under way in respect of not only the sports policy, but sports tourism, and a committee has recently been established," Miller said.
In the meantime, Errol Morrison, president of the University of Technology, says such investment has proven more valuable than when individuals attempted other ventures.
"Education continues to yield high rates of returns to those smart enough to invest in it," he said.
"Studies of returns on investment in tertiary education reveal returns of some 19 per cent and are significantly higher than investment in other areas," the UTech president added.
Morrison argued that with the job market unable to absorb the thousands of graduates coming out of the various institutions, graduands should use their skills to create new enterprises and businesses, while encouraging others to follow the same path.
A total of 97 students graduated, of which 85 did their programmes at the western Jamaica campus.
The historic event also saw UTech conferring the Honorary Doctor of Laws on businessman and real estate guru James Goren.