Prime Minister declares Jamaica a “STEM island” at 21stCentEd/ UTech, Ja. Future Ready International Conference

The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister, cuts the ribbon to officially open the STEMxpo during the Future Ready International Conference held at the Alfred Sangster Auditorium at the University of Technology, Jamaica’s Papine Campus on April 24, 2024.  Supporting the Prime Minister (from left) are Dr. Kevin Brown, President, University of Technology, Jamaica, Dr. The Honourable Glen Christian, OJ, Chairman, Jamaica STEM for Growth Foundation, The Honourable Fayval Williams, Minister of Education and Youth, Dr. Kasan Troupe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Youth and Mr. Marlon Lindsay, Founder and CEO, 2stCentEd.

Prime Minister, The Most Honourable Andrew Holness has declared Jamaica a “STEM island with a vision of fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and empowering our people to thrive in the global knowledge economy.” 

The Prime Minister made the official declaration during the opening ceremony of the Future Ready International Conference hosted by 21stCentEd, a Comprehensive STEM™ education systems Jamaican-led company based in the United States, which is hosting the international conference in partnership with University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech, Ja.) from April 23 to 26, 2024 at the university’s Papine Campus.  The four-day conference is poised to reshape education, preparing both students and educators for a world defined by Artificial Intelligence, automation and robotics.

Prime Minister Holness in giving the keynote address at the Future Ready International conference noted that Jamaica will achieve its STEM goals through a collaborative approach with government, private sector, academia, and civil society.  Prime Minister Holness vowed to implement comprehensive STEM education reforms across all educational levels. 

He noted that, “we will develop ecosystems to encourage startups, entrepreneurs and innovators.  We will encourage the growth of STEM industries such as biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing.  We will also leverage STEM to grow and monetize the musical, artistic, cultural and other natural talents of our people.  We will leverage STEM solutions to address environmental challenges including climate change, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.  We will develop a skilled workforce capable of competing in global markets.  We will position Jamaica as a hub for STEM research, innovation, collaboration and other developments in the Caribbean and beyond by embracing STEM as a national priority, Jamaica will unlock its full potential driving prosperity, peace and productivity in a sustainable and equitable way for all our Jamaican citizens and indeed for the world.” 

Although there will be emerging challenges, he affirmed that the people are the resources of the country and through creativity, Jamaicans must see the big picture which is required for human survival and to make Jamaica a “peaceful and prosperous country.”  The Prime Minister expressed conviction in developing young people in unlocking, “the incredible talents that exist in this country for STEM” speaking highly of, “the creativity of Jamaicans like Jada Wright.” – 14-year-old youngest student at UTech, Ja. who is currently pursuing the BSc in Computer Science.

UTech, Jamaica as Jamaica’s leading STEM university

Dr. Kevin Brown, President, University of Technology, Jamaica in his welcome, emphasized that for the past 65 years, UTech, Jamaica has been committed to aligning with the government’s mission in prioritizing STEM education.  This commitment is exemplified by the 2023 awarding of GOJ Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Scholarships to 1,000 UTech, Jamaica students for the next five years. 

Asserting that UTech Jamaica has been the “centerpiece of national development in leading the way as Jamaica’s premier STEM university, nurturing dreams and capacity for greatness,” Dr. Brown noted that the University has produced over 60,000 graduates who have not only been making a tremendous impact in Jamaica, but across the globe.

As a proud example of talent UTech, Jamaica has produced as a STEM university, Dr. Brown who studied Mechanical Engineering at the institution, stands tall in encouraging STEM education. He shared with the gathering, “a STEM education has given me everything that I’ve dreamt about as a young man”  as he reflected on UTech, Jamaica's role in shaping him into a top engineer in the ever-evolving technological landscape.  He affirmed that, “UTech wants to see that as our national agenda going forward” because “this is how our country will grow.”

Dr. Brown urged collaboration between the government, private sector, alumni and all who wish to see Jamaica grow and succeed to ensure that the mandate of the university is met so that Jamaica will be prepared for the next technological revolution.

Dr. Kevin Brown (right), President, University of Technology, Jamaica, speaking with Mr. Marlon Lindsay (left), Founder and CEO of 2stCentEd at the Future Ready International Conference held at the Alfred Sangster Auditorium on the Papine Campus on April 24, 2024

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on April 22, 2024 marked the official partnership between UTech, Jamaica and 21stCentEd aimed at ensuring that Jamaica is STEM ready.  Dr. Brown noted that through the partnership, UTech, Ja. will be playing its part in helping to “ensure that Jamaica is prepared for the rapid technological change that is occurring…ensure that our educators are prepared, our schools are equipped and that we are producing students that can succeed and function in the 21st century in respect to technology.”

A passion for STEM education

In expressing his passion and drive for contributing to STEM education, Mr. Marlon Lindsay, Founder and CEO, 2stCentEd, expressed that he didn’t simply come to Jamaica to do STEM but instead, “met STEM here… because in Jamaica there is brilliance, there has always been brilliance and if somebody is going to lead out in the Caribbean and create an example for the world at a systemic level, [it] must be Jamaica.”

Referencing the foreword of the book, STEM Century: It Takes a Village to Raise a 21st Century Graduate, Mr. Lindsay highlighted a passage where the Prime Minister emphasized, “as we navigate the unchartered waters of the 21st century, let us embrace the ethos of STEM century with unwavering determination and a commitment to collaboration of core concept.  Together we can raise a generation of graduates who will not only thrive in the digital age but also drive the transformation of our society, our economy and our world.”

Mr. Lindsay emphasized the importance of developing the ability to identify and solve problems by using critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication as enduring learning principles when working alongside automated machines.

He expressed that the responsibility lies within this generation to prepare the younger generation for success in a “future that we can’t see but a present that requires our full attention and core principle, collaboration.”

Fostering collaboration to enhance STEM education

Dr. The Honourable Glen Christian, Chairman, Jamaica STEM for Growth Foundation shared that the STEM for Growth organization is, “committed to supporting initiatives that forge a future ready workforce” in a world driven by technology.

Recognizing the urgent need to equip Jamaicans with the necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly digital world, Dr. Christian cited an urgent  need for STEM education across the island.  He noted that STEM can empower us, technologically and economically, “let us work together to ensure that STEM like Reggae becomes a hallmark of Jamaica’s success story on the global stage.”

Mr. Sydney Thwaites, President, Jamaica Manufactures and Exporters Association (JMEA), called for the collaboration between the private sector and government to foster innovation on a global level. He highlighted the need for the private sector to “create opportunities so that those who step into the breach as innovators have somewhere to go other than overseas” and affirmed that the JMEA is a willing partner in this initiative.

Expressing concern over the brain drain in Jamaica, with many talented individuals leaving the country for opportunities abroad, he took the opportunity to emphasize the talent and determination of Jamaicans, “you cannot tell a Jamaican that there’s something we cannot do.  Regardless of where we come from, our circumstances and what we aspire to, you cannot tell us that we cannot do something.”

Mr. Thwaites encouraged visiting students to use the Future Ready conference to embrace their potential, referring to every Jamaican as a "star" with limitless possibilities.

A proud UTech, Jamaica STEM student

Miss Jada Wright, the youngest student to be admitted to UTech, Jamaica at the age of 14, expressed gratitude to the institution for taking the “innovative step to accepting me here.  It was a wild ride this past semester, but I am so excited to be here.”

Sharing her inspiring story, Jada explained that at the age of nine, she made the decision to delve into coding, driven by her belief that, “that’s where the world is going and I want to be a part of it.”  Despite her unwavering certainty of becoming a neurosurgeon until a year ago, her love for problem-solving led her to pursue a career in Computer Science.

The gifted scholar implored the younger generation to take on the mantle to see problem and find solutions, expressing, “STEM education is all about finding solutions to problems... it teaches us to be problem solvers, it teaches us to use our most important resource which is our creativity... to make not just the world but our nation a better place.”

The young student affirmed her belief that a STEM education is the future, emphasizing, “that’s how we’re going to get our young people to think critically, creatively and apply that creativity to find the solutions that we need to not just innovate today but to build a better tomorrow.”


Michelle Beckford   
Corporate Communications Manager  
University of Technology, Jamaica  
Telephone: (876) 970-5299