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More than 250 workers displaced by the decline of the banana industry now have new career options, after completing the HEART Trust/ NTA Banana Sector Retraining Project.
The project, funded by the European Union (EU), targeted communities in St. Catherine, St. Mary, St. Thomas, St. James, Portland and Clarendon. It gave some of the workers skills for transitioning to different areas of employment, such as housekeeping, tiling and construction, and sharpened the expertise of others to improve productivity in banana and alternative farming.
Graduates of the programme received their certificates on Thursday (December 17) at a closing ceremony for the project at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Marc Panton, congratulated the participants in the programme, and said it was their initiative and perseverance that was being recognised. He charged them to find innovative ways in which they can produce value-added products from traditional agricultural products.

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Marc Panton (left), addressing participants in the HEART Trust/NTA Banana Sector Retraining project during the closing ceremony at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Thursday (December 17).

“You are poised and a great opportunity is afforded to you, by virtue of your further training, not only to go into alternative areas of primary production, but to look at being creative in the value-added aspects of agriculture,” he urged.
He also encouraged them to make use of funding mechanisms, such as the Financial Access for Responsible Members (FARM) programme, to fund whatever business ideas they come up with, or the Scientific Research Council to help them develop their ideas.
Dr. Panton also said that the Government would be conducting a study to determine the size and structure of the contracted banana industry, and available marketing opportunities.
Director of Projects and Partnerships at the HEART Trust/ NTA, Elizabeth Terry, explained that at the start of the programme several career development workshops were held, and the participants assessed. Based on their level of educational competence, some were channelled into HEART programnes, while others were placed in pre-vocational training courses with the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL).

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Marc Panton, delivering the main address at the closing ceremony for the HEART Trust/NTA Banana Sector Retraining project at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston on Thursday (December 17).

The HEART Trust/ NTA Banana Sector Retraining project is slated to end on December 31, however, Mrs. Terry gave the commitment that HEART would continue with the training of persons who have not yet completed the programme.
“It will conclude, however HEART is committed to ensuring that what we have started we will finish,” she stated.
Granville, St. James resident, Winifred Stevens, who was trained in housekeeping, explained that, previously, she found it difficult to get a job because of her lack of certification.
“Now that I have all my certificates, I am proud and I would say thanks to the European Union and HEART Trust that I am now certified and I can do whatever I want,” she said.

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