• Feature
    Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, the Hon. Fayval Williams, addressing the orientation session for the Universal Service Fund's Technology Advancement Programme, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, in August.
    Photo: Donald De La Haye

    Story Highlights

    • Some 600 unattached young people from communities across the island are benefiting from training and certification under the Universal Service Fund’s (USF’s) 2019 Technology Advancement Programme (TAP).
    • Under the initiative, which got under way earlier this month, the youngsters are being equipped with skills in information and communications technology (IT) in order to improve their economic prospects.
    • The one-year programme involves collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), with training being held at the USF’s Community Access Points (CAPs) and HEART Trust/NTA locations.

    Some 600 unattached young people from communities across the island are benefiting from training and certification under the Universal Service Fund’s (USF’s) 2019 Technology Advancement Programme (TAP).

    Under the initiative, which got under way earlier this month, the youngsters are being equipped with skills in information and communications technology (IT) in order to improve their economic prospects.

    The one-year programme involves collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), with training being held at the USF’s Community Access Points (CAPs) and HEART Trust/NTA locations.

    Speaking with JIS News, programme participant, Shelly-Ann Andrews, says “this is a great opportunity to further my education in technology”.

    The 23-year-old from Annotto Bay, St. Mary, says that since leaving high school, she has had a few short-term jobs, and her goal is to receive certification in order to gain permanent employment.

    “This opportunity is just a blessing, and I do realise that God answered my prayers,” she says.

    Oshane Walters from Clarendon tells JIS News that he too is looking forward to the certification, which is internationally recognised.

    Oshane says that he is a technology enthusiast, and believes that the programme will help him to monetise his passion.

    USF Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Deleen Powell, tells JIS News that the programme was created “out of a need that we recognised existed, particularly among young persons, many of whom had no real interaction with information and communications technology in a meaningful way”.

    She notes that while many youngsters have smartphones, they lack basic ICT skills, such as word processing, and have never interacted with computers.

    “They would not know how to type a letter using Microsoft Word or create a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel,” she says.

    “If they are going to function in a professional environment, they need to have those basic skills,” Miss Powell contends.

    Outlining the format of the programme, she says that the participants will undergo training over a six-month period – three with the CMU and three with the HEART Trust/NTA – before being placed in a working environment for another six months.

    These include primary and secondary schools as well as other public- and private-sector organisations.

    She informs that the Heart Trust/NTA is providing training in systems administration, which will allow the participants to function as administrators in a computer laboratory, with the ability to do basic troubleshooting and repairs.

    The CMU is equipping them with skills in data management, data collection and analysis, digital literacy, social media and entrepreneurship.

    Upon successful completion, the participants will receive certification from the HEART Trust/NTA equivalent to the institution’s Level 2 qualification, and a certificate of completion from the CMU, which will enable them to matriculate into a programme at the university.

    During the period of training, participants will receive a stipend of $10,600 per week to assist with transportation, meals and other expenses.

    Miss Powell tells JIS News that the objective of the training is not just for the participants to gain employment in the field of ICT.

    “We also want to set that foundation, that if they should choose to go into business for themselves, they would have these building blocks to help them along the way,” she notes.

    TAP, which is in its second year, was launched in 2018 with 890 participants. Of the total, 665 persons successfully completed the training.

    Some of the 2019/2020 participants in the Universal Service Fund’s (USF) Technology Advancement Programme (TAP) at the orientation session held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, in August.
    D. De La Haye photos

     

    Miss Powell says that approximately 15 per cent of the trainees were retained by organisations after completing their job placement.

    “For many of them, it was a lifeline and they sought to make the best use of the opportunity,” she notes.

    Another positive impact of the programme, she says, is that many of these 890 persons became a part of the formal financial sector, having had to open bank accounts in order to receive their stipend.

    “Some did not even have the prerequisites to open [a bank account], such as birth certificates, national identification or a Tax Registration Number (TRN),” she notes.

    Miss Powell shares that the USF is extremely proud of the success of the programme, highlighting the feedback received from participants.

    She says one young man, who had been in trouble with the law, excelled in the programme and did very well in the organisation in which he was placed.

    “There were many more participants who had not completed school and did not have any prior certification, without which it is often difficult to secure any kind of meaningful employment,” she notes.