A signing ceremony at the office of Ampara Government Agent Sunil Kannangara was attended by USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn, Sierra Construction Chief Executive Officer Nimal N. Lokuge, and R. P. B. Thilakasiri, Director General of the Vocational Training Authority, which will administer the schools. The contract was signed between Sierra, a leading Sri Lankan construction firm, and CH2M Hill, the prime US contractor, represented by Chief of Party Teny Mittal.
"This project to build critical vocational educational schools in eastern districts devastated by the tsunami demonstrates the continuing commitment of the U.S. government to provide support to long-term recovery from the tsunami," Ms. Cohn said. "Training young people in vocational trades will provide them crucial skills leading to well paying jobs that will benefit the overall economic health of the region."
The schools will teach key trades identified as lacking in the Sri Lankan workforce, such as welding, electronics repair, masonry and carpentry, as well as English language and computer training. Schools at Central Camp, Ninthavur, and Kalawanchikudy will feature a mix of general trades. The school in Samanthurai, specializing in apparel industry training, is designed to be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified school for its sound environmental design. The program will supply the schools with the necessary commodities to make the facilities fully functional, including curriculum development and teacher training.
"Building these new schools is one way to help solve the problems of Sri Lanka," said Sierra's Lokuge. "We applaud the commitment of the United States to help create new economic opportunities in Sri Lanka following the tsunami, and assure you that the job is in good hands with Sierra."
In the next week, USAID plans to sign a second contract to construct or rehabilitate an additional five vocational schools in the South. Other key elements of the SLTRP include construction of a new $10.6 million Arugam Bay Bridge and a contract for $9.8 million to rehabilitate and upgrade three fishing harbors in the South. All the projects are on schedule for completion by mid-2008.