Training and Development through VI STEM Kids and VISTA+

Posted by: RTPark on Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Research and Technology Park’s (RTPark) mission to cultivate a thriving tech ecosystem in the USVI includes attracting technology businesses to the territory. Still, more importantly, it requires growing the skills and resources of local Virgin Islanders to succeed in the technology industry. Engaging the tech industry community is the best way to create sustainable growth and prosperity long-term. We especially need to engage children in technology early and teach them the skills they’ll need to succeed in a STEM field. 

This summer, the RTPark introduced its first coding camp for children, VI STEM Kids. The RTPark partnered with the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls to provide four weeks of coding classes to kids between the ages of 8 and 10. These classes are taught by Virgin Islanders with experience in education, technology, or both. Originally these classes were intended to be taught in-person in three locations on St. Thomas and St. Croix, but the program was moved to a virtual format due to the pandemic to keep the kids and facilitators safe. Over four weeks, kids learn the basic concepts and processes behind writing code by working with a tool called Scratch. 

One of the curriculum’s major goals is to get kids excited about technology and software, but learning to write code teaches kids much more than how to work with one particular tool or coding language. The process of working through an activity to create working code teaches kids logical problem-solving skills and persistence in the face of unfamiliar challenges. Working with the facilitators and the other kids in the class practices communication and collaboration. These skills will be immensely valuable to these children as they grow and learn, no matter their long-term interests or what career they pursue.

We hope to evolve and expand this program in the future to serve many more USVI children and continue to prepare future generations for successful, exciting careers in STEM fields. The technical, communication and problem-solving skills they learn from this program will serve them well no matter what they choose to do in their lives, and having a skilled workforce will increase the territory’s resilience in a rapidly changing global economy. 

In addition to investing in the long-term technical workforce of the USVI by exposing children to STEM fields and skills, the RTPark is developing the current technical workforce. We are exploring options for potential partnerships for intensive coding training for adults in the territory from partner organizations. Through our talent attraction initiative, the RTPark has also developed an online database of USVI technical talent and job openings called VISTA+. This resource will help connect skilled workers with jobs that fully utilize their expertise at local companies and help show any tech workers who would like to return to the USVI that there are available opportunities for them here.  VISTA+ is scheduled to launch early this Fall, and we encourage the USVI community to stay tuned for exciting updates and opportunities to learn more about the platform. 

Through these workforce development efforts, the RTPark hopes to connect Virgin Islanders to high-paying, resilient job opportunities that allow them to remain in the territory while fully participating in global trends that will shape the world’s future.

Client Testimonials

We have been part of the RT-Park program for almost three years now.  The application process was straight forward and we had plenty of dialogue and feedback prior to our approval.  My only regret is we didn’t do this sooner.  It is satisfying  knowing that we are partners with UVI and enabling the education of the next generation .  We also love living in the USVI.  People are warm and welcoming and the pace of life is amazing healthy.  Most days it feels like a working vacation.

Andy Hemmert, President , HRMT, LLC

There are many unique treasures to living here. I’ve discovered a passion for mountain biking. My children have learned to sail. With a small community, you get to know people quickly. We found they went out of their way to make us feel welcome. When considering the move, a top concern was the children’s education. We found a quality school our kids love, with a dedicated faculty. In fairness there is an adjustment period. You learn to navigate island life, master shipping logistics, get to know a new culture, and take in some of the most beautiful ocean views in the world.

David Thompson, Exigo

Our firm, The RainTree Group, came into the UVI RT Park program in 2018.  We didn't have much experience in the USVI and followed the advice of the wonderful RT Park staff and other RT Park tenants.  The application process was transparent and straightforward.   The simple concept of the Park is mutual benefit - your company gets some tax incentives that allows you to grow your business more quickly and the USVI and UVI gets additional tax base, employment opportunities, and scholarships for deserving students.  The business environment and life in the USVI is slower paces and less stressful as the mainland, and without question the biggest business hurdle is communications, so find an office location where you have investigated the broadband options. Come and join us, you won't regret it!

James Salter, VosCom dba The RainTree Group

In January 2012 my business was underway as a Tech Park entity. It has been a wonderful seven years. The Tech Park has always been supportive, easy to do business with, and is making a positive impact on the islands. The Tech Park organization is professional and efficient. They have created a friendly business environment that has been a pleasure to work within and a great experience overall. I would encourage any eligible entity to consider joining us in the Tech Park.

Louise Stapleton, LNL Publishing