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JIS News

When Jamalco decided to train more than 1,700 persons to fill jobs in its expanded operations, the bauxite company was acting on the adage that “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime,” says Christopher Buckmaster, Training and Development Officer at Jamalco.
According to, Mr. Buckmaster, the training programme which is operating in Breadnut Valley, a community neighbouring the plant’s Halse Hall location, was designed to teach youths skills as well as to help people from surrounding communities who are seeking to get back on their feet, allowing them a second chance at life.
“It would be one thing to hand them some form of assistance or another, but to give them a skill, we were ensuring that they had the ability to eek out an existence on their own,” the Training and Development Officer tells JIS News.
Mr. Buckmaster informs that some 190 welders and 66 electricians were trained at Jamalco’s Breadnut Valley facility in the parish and some 130 welders and all 66 electricians had graduated in April last year.
“When you walked on the streets in May Pen and other communities it was a sight to see young able-bodied youth going to waste – per se. Now, you see them working and making a living and becoming meaningful contributors to their country’s economy. Indeed, we are giving a sense of pride to as many Jamaicans as we come in contact with,” Mr. Buckmaster states.
“This has really boosted the workforce here, which has reflected positively in production. Certainly the move to train these persons has filled a crucial necessity here at Jamalco and things are expected to blossom even further when the full complement comes into force,” says Mr. Buckmaster.
The training of electricians and welders is part of an overall programme being carried out in collaboration with the HEART Trust, to provide a skilled and certified workforce for Jamalco’s expansion project, which will be executed over the next two to three years.
But although high work output is essential to maintaining Alcoa’s enviable status as a first quintile company for its bottom line and occupational health and safety record.
Speaking on the matter of safety and concern for workers, Mr. Buckmaster says measures are being put in place for new workers to ensure they are aware of safety procedures as well as practise them as second nature.
He notes that in 2006, “not only has Jamalco recorded no loss of work days due to safety problems, but the company has recorded not one injury for the year.” Jamalco is the only facility in the Alcoa group to have achieved this feat, he said.
“In a business like ours, this is a significant achievement as Jamalco is coming from having a number of injuries every year to no injuries at all,” he informs.
What stands out about the Breadnut Valley Training programme, is that it reaches out to those at the lowest levels of professional skills and bring them up to a competent level.
Not only are skilled trades people being given further training to bring them up to competency standards and equip them for work during the expansion, but a helping hand is also being extended to those who are illiterate.
Under the company’s Documentation Programme, concomitant with the skills training project, workers are being given literacy skills to enable them to begin the skills training. Mr. Buckmaster explains that this initiative now has 400 persons enrolled.
The present expansion programme, which is slated for completion this year, will involve the employment of 3,500 persons at the peak of construction as well as result in 100 permanent jobs and more than 150 contractor jobs. Jamalco’s goal is to be able to source all of these skills locally, and to drive the training work to develop those skills where they do not already exist.
Robert Green, Director for Strategic Workforce Development at the HEART/Trust NTA, informs that 130 welders and all the electricians who completed the key units of training required by Jamalco were now well ahead in the “early works” segment of the project. “We just completed the recruitment of another group of persons as we speak. As for those who are now working at the company, they will need to return on a part time basis to complete their full level three competency training as is offered by the NCTVET (National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training),” he explains.
Mr. Green says that HEART Trust was successful in referring some 534 persons from different skill areas, to the early segment of the project. “The greater challenge, however, is to meet the target of approximately 3,000 workers when the project peaks next year. We are working feverishly towards that,” Mr. Green says.
Meanwhile, for his part, Donald Foster, Chief Technical Director at the HEART Trust, informs that training for the project was being undertaken at nine institutions across the island, including the National Tools and Engineering Institute (NTEI).
The Jamalco expansion project is a US$1.3 billion investment, which should result in the plant doubling its refining capacity, moving from the current 1.25 million tonnes of alumina per year to 2.8 million tonnes.
It is expected to take about 28 months for construction and start-up, with another six months for commissioning.
The first phase of the project, which should be completed by year-end, will see an upgrade of the company’s capacity by approximately 150,000 tonnes.