Mr. Director; Mr. Administrative Coordinator; Instructors and Staff; Graduates; Parents, Families and friends; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and gentlemen: Allow me to first express profound thanks and appreciation for the opportunity to address you on this very special occasion.
I take this time to applaud families, sponsors, friends, instructors and staff, and all others who have been instrumental in making this day possible. You have not only given these graduates a future; you have also contributed to the future of Liberia. The empowerment of our people is essential in a country where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 35 – many of whom are war-affected youths of our civil conflict who did not have the opportunity of an education or skill. They remain the most vulnerable elements of our society; however, peace has given them a chance to live a normal life, to seek an education and vocational training, to engage in small enterprises, to regain their respect and dignity. Besides, college for all is not a reasonable goal. There are many persons who have no desire for college education; and they shouldn’t be forced to do so. The claim that jobs of the future require only college education is fraught with flaws. Some of the most developed countries in the world are those which present vocational and technical programs as alternative education track for its citizens. For example, Finland has an excellent program for vocational and technical education which accounts for more than 40 percent of its students. So we should be preparing our population for a variety of vocations and let them know that it is honorable to know how to build a house, to install plumbing and electricity, sew cloths, to decorate our homes, design our hair and beautify us, to bake our cakes for celebrations, etc. This pool of professionals can bridge an important vacuum in the economic life of the country. We recognize that you are the catalyst for driving the economic and socio-political development which would lead Liberia into a prosperous future. We know that to maintain the peace, we must make skills driven education a paramount commitment of Government. Your graduation today is an ongoing fulfillment of that promise. Ladies and gentlemen, vocational and technical institutions as the Maryann Cheeseman School of Home Arts and Cosmetology should be replicated throughout this country; as they present the most effective and urgent medium of lifting thousands of our people out of poverty, by giving them livelihood skills in the shortest period for deployment in the work force. These institutions should be celebrated for unshackling individuals from the poverty trap of hunger, disease, and ignorance. When an individual is unskilled, that person’s prospect for a successful life is almost zero. Such persons would have little or no demand in the job market, because they have nothing to sell to an employer. That is where the problems of vulnerable employment come about. Unskilled laborers find themselves all the way at the end of the employment echelon, because they have no specified and desirable skills to sell; with that, they are paid arbitrarily, leaving them almost at the mercy of their employers. High unemployment anywhere in the world is attributed to a missing pool of skilled labor to absorb a growing labor force. Consequently, surplus unskilled workers face vulnerabilities as they are pushed into the informal sector, where they lack regular income and job security. That’s why skills development and job creation are central and indispensable to the achievement of our national development objectives and thus the SDGs. This graduation today is even more important because it comes as a product of Government’s development framework, within the context of the “Agenda for Transformation” which are being aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2063 of the African Union. Today, this institution has reshaped the fate of another 39 Liberians who have been given useful skills for life, and now confidently going out to face a future of great possibilities. However, I must warn that despite acquisition of these skills, there are more requirements for success. Skills alone will not take you there. It may only keep you afloat. But when you desire a truly successful live, you have to push yourselves a little more; this brings us to the importance of altitude. The successful utilization of these of skills will be highly dependent on your behavior, commitment, and honesty. There are many people with very important skills but are yet living on handouts simply because they are dishonest to their clients, or they are just simply dishonest. In every transaction their goal is to become the net winner, irrespective of what it costs their customers. That is an unethical business practice. Your ultimate goal in your business should not be to benefit all; instead, it should be to meet the satisfaction of your customers. In that way, they would keep returning. That is the magic of a successful business! We are privileged to have in this dispensation, a president who has championed education for girls and the vulnerable, thus prioritizing programs across the country that promote these ideals. It is left with you all now to take full advantage of this opportunity to lift yourselves out of poverty. You can make it; no doubt, as many have successfully done so. To succeed doing this, you must continue to seek knowledge, as you step boldly into the future and do your part in fulfilling our shared dream of a better Nation. This new journey on which you have embarked has set you on the path of great possibilities to becoming successful in your respective fields. By awarding you these diplomas today, you are being given the responsibility to set standards that are exemplary. In conclusion, let me congratulate you all for this great achievement and courage that have brought you this far. Now, I charge you to go out into the world and claim your future! Thank you!!