Employment has been provided for 50 persons at Twickenham Industries, in St. Catherine, through its partnership with the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
The employees, mostly drawn from the parish of St. Catherine, have been exposed to agro-processing and the manufacturing of several bi-products from locally grown cassava.
Located on the campus of the Farmers Training Centre at Twickenham Park, the company produces a wide variety of products from cassava, such as bammies, pancake mix, gari cereal (which is an African dish), and cassava flour for the local and overseas markets.
In an interview with JIS News, Commercial Manager at RADA’s Twickenham Industries, Dale Crooks, says the partnership, which commenced in December 2012, is providing meaningful employment to the participants.
“The programme is well needed, especially when it comes to creating employment for young people and workers in general. We wish to see more programmes like this being pushed to help persons going forward,” he informs.
The Commercial Manager explains that the participants go through training exercises, to ensure that they are competent to undertake the tasks which they are required to do.
“Most of the persons who come here for employment have to go through a bit of training in food handling and others…so it’s been very helpful for a lot of young people,” he says.
Mr. Crooks informs that the participants have been instrumental in repairing well needed machines, which plays an integral role in the overall operations of the facility.
“In the beginning we had some machines that were down and the project has helped us to employ persons to repair and to maintain the equipment to a level where we can produce properly to satisfy our market,” he adds.
The Commercial Manager says persons have also been employed in the marketing, administrative and sales departments of the company, as part of efforts to improve the “viability of the products” on the market across sections of the island.
He notes that apart from cassava bi-products, the company, which was established in 1994, also engages in the manufacture of pancake syrup, the milling and drying of sweet potato, ginger, sweet and hot peppers.
Mr. Crooks discloses that discussions are taking place to explore the possibility of retaining several of the beneficiaries for full time employment after completing their stint under the JEEP.
“Currently, we are looking to see how best we can keep some of these young people on staff. They have been contributing to the productivity of the factory and we are trying our best to see what we can do to allow young people to contribute to the community and their own livelihood,” he says.
Having been unemployed for a while, Stacy-Ann Evans is expressing gratitude to the Government for the opportunity to be a part of JEEP.
She informs that even though the employment is short term, participants can gain meaningful experience which can assist them in various career choices.
“I have been able to learn different things while here at this location… as I have been exposed to the agro processing area, which is the first time I have been working in that section,” she says.
Ms. Evans notes that even though she is employed in an administrative capacity, based on the nature of the company, she has learnt how to make the products from scratch.
“I am exposed to other things that are happening around me and based on how things are done here, I have experience in this area that will be helpful. If I go elsewhere then this will be definitely a big help for me, in that I am being trained here in food processing and I am getting the experience which I never had before,” she adds.
For Marvin Kenyon, another beneficiary, the opportunity has allowed him to gather much needed experience while providing for his family.
“It has helped me with my bills that I have at the house and it helps me with my daughter’s schooling, because right now she’s doing pre-university (courses)…so without this I would have to be out there trying (to hunt) jobs… so it’s a helpful programme,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Kenyon adds that while being employed, he has been introduced to all the machines at the plant and is able to operate them efficiently.
The JEEP is one of the Government’s strategic responses to unemployment among Jamaicans, particularly those in lower socio-economic groups, persons with special needs, as well as those with low skill levels.
The brainchild of Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, JEEP has yielded jobs for approximately 37,000 persons since its inception in March 2012.
Contact: Chris Patterson