THE European Union forked out $900,000 to upgrade facilities at Vivekananda Technical Centre in Nadi last month.
EU's deputy head of delegation Johnny Engell-Hansen was chief guest at the official ceremony that marked the commissioning of the centre last month.
"The funds are provided through the EU funded Social Mitigation Support Program," he said.
Mr Engell-Hansen said the EU program was the first allocation of a larger assistance to the sugar cane dependent populations which experienced hardship and a diminishing of their livelihood as a result of reforms to the sugar industry in Fiji.
The EU Social Mitigation Support Program aims at identifying some alternative strategies for mitigating the adverse effects of the sugar industry restructuring on the populations living in the sugar cane belt, he said.
Mr Engell-Hansen said the project supported the populations through three different operations:
* alternative housing and micro-projects,
* access to rural credit, and
* proposing different income generating activities through the provision of Vocational training.
"In order to deliver the assistance, EU has contracted with some NGOs like Ramakrishna Mission to promote, design and conduct training in alternative sectors to develop new skills for alternative work whether in farming or in off farm alternatives like: hospitality industry, carpentry, automotive mechanic, electrical, or IT skills for instance," he said. Partnership was also sought through attachments with existing private partners in order that each training is geared to meet the needs of local industries and local job market, he said.
While the overall assistance program will provide vocational training for more than 5000 people though different training institutions, the component of the program which is implemented by Ramakrishna will train 100 trainees annually in automotive maintenance.
Catering and food technology, computer applications and maintenance or in animal husbandry and agriculture through crop intensification and adoption of better farming practices, Mr Engell-Hansel
He said he was pleased with the development which took place in a span of a year after the signing of the grant and in spite of some adverse conditions like the two consecutive floods that struck the west coast of Viti Levu at the beginning of the year.