Prime Minister, David Thompson, greeting student Dion Ellyatt during his tour of the Learning Centre.??

First Base (Barbados Association for Supported Employment), a training facility which will accommodate a maximum of 10 "graduates" of the Learning Centre, should be fully operational come January next year.????

President of the Barbados Association for the Correction of Learning, Felicia Inniss, made this disclosure yesterday, after a tour of the Centre by Prime Minister David Thompson.

Explaining that the Learning Centre could only accommodate students up to the age of 18, Ms. Inniss said that of the students who left, 80 per cent were unable to seek regular employment, because they still needed supervision. ??

She noted that First Base would be located in Greenwich Village, St James, at a chapel which had been donated by the Anglican Church. However, given its small size, Ms. Inniss stated that there was also a plan to establish a larger, purpose-built facility, entitled ???Home Base’ at an estimated cost of $3 million.

The President revealed that they had been promised five acres of land to use for the Home Base project, which would include agriculture as a part of the curriculum.

"If we can have a facility that will provide supervised employment, we can do greater for our nation. The welfare system will come down for sure, because we will give them a stipend and it will alleviate a lot of social problems that exist at this time. So we are just trying to have continuity to what happens [at the Learning Centre], because if you teach somebody a skill and cut it off at a point, it makes no sense," Ms. Inniss opined.

Sharing his views after the tour of the Learning Centre, Prime Minister David Thompson commended the management and staff of the facility for a job well done.?? He lamented that "sometimes when you are doing well with what you have, people don’t listen to you sympathetically because they feel that [you] are doing a good job." He stressed, however, that there was a need for constant attention to be paid to the Centre, and for a larger area for recreational facilities.???? ????

The Learning Centre, which has been located at Orange Hill, St. James, since 1995, has a roll of 86 students, 20 of whom are girls. In addition to subjects such as Maths and English, the students also learn skills in barbering, hair dressing and woodwork, with ironing boards, beds, and cupboard doors being among the popular items made.

The Centre receives an annual government subvention of $400,000. This, along with school fees, fund-raising and donations from corporate Barbados, as well as philanthropic individuals, is used to run the facility.

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