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"I'm very excited about this project," Ambassador Blake was quoted as saying in a statement.
"Training young people in vocational trades promises to boost both family income and the health of the southern coastal economy."
The schools will teach trades in high demand by the Sri Lankan workforce, such as masonry, plumbing, welding and carpentry in Hikkaduwa, apparel in Koggala, plumbing and appliance repair in Talalla, small engines in Tangalle, and hotel skills in Ahangama.
The school in Ahangama is designed to be an environmentally friendly "green" school certified by the US-based Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a worldwide certification for sound environmental design.
With a sister school in Samanthurai, Ampara District, Ahangama will be the first LEED-certified schools constructed in Sri Lanka, the US embassy said.
"We hope that these two schools can set a precedent for environmentally sound design in public buildings all over Sri Lanka for years to come," Ambassador Blake said.
USAID will also supply the schools with furniture, tools, sewing machines and other items. Construction is expected to be completed by June 2008.
Access Engineering was represented by Managing Director Dilshan Ferdinando at the signing ceremony, which also included Vocational Training Authority Chairman T.W. Ponnamperuma, USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn, and CH2M HILL Chief of Party Teny Mittal.
Access also holds the contract for the fishing harbors element of the US aid program, the embassy said.
Headquartered near Denver, Colo., employee-owned CH2M HILL is a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, management and operations for government, civil, industrial and energy clients. With $6.4 billion in revenue and more than 23,500 employees, CH2M HILL is an industry-leading program management, construction management and design firm, as ranked by Engineering News-Record (2008). The firm's work is concentrated in the areas of energy, water, transportation, environmental, nuclear and industrial facilities. The firm has long been recognized as a most-admired company and leading employer, including being named by FORTUNE as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For (2009).