The Senate has passed amendments to the Defence Act to, among other things, establish a new arm of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to be known as the Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC).
The Bill, which was piloted by Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., also formalises the Chief of Defence Staff title given to the army’s Commanding Officer.
He said the JNSC will target young people, aged 18 to 23, and will create an avenue for them to be fully empowered through national service.
Senator Charles Jr. informed that this new recruitment window will result in the drafting of approximately 700 young people, who will bring the JDF’s annual intake up to 1,000.
He noted that the JNSC soldiers will be remunerated accordingly, be separate in identity, and fully provided for in law.
Senator Don Wehby, in supporting the Bill, said the initiative is very important for reaching unattached youth and to reintegrate them into society through training, employment and resocialisation.
He said that for persons, who do not meet the enlistment requirements, there are other programmes and skills training initiatives, from which they can benefit. These include certified training programmes at the HEART Trust/NTA to qualify them for enlistment or to join the labour market.
Senator Wehby proposed that consideration be given to the provisional enlistment of applicants on condition that they fulfil the requirements within a certain time frame.
“Provisional enlistment may not be suitable for every applicant, depending on their education gap, but could work for applicants who meet a substantial portion of the requirements,” he pointed out.
Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Mark Golding, also stated his support for the move to establish the JNSC.
The JNSC will support the implementation of the Learn, Earn, Give back and Serve (LEGS) programme, which aims to assist young people, who, by virtue of their circumstances, have become unattached.
LEGS is a part of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) initiative, targeting job and training opportunities for unattached young people aged 19 to 24.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on April 12, 2017.