Feature
Auto Body Repair Instructor, Fitzgerald Thompson (left), conducts a class at the Trench Town Polytechnic College, in Kingston.
Photo: Rudranath Fraser

Story Highlights

  • The Trench Town Polytechnic College, in Kingston, was conceptualised in 2015, when the Ministry of Education took the decision to streamline Charlie Smith High and Trench Town High Schools. Today, the College is changing the lives of hundreds of students with the myriad of courses offered.
  • The consensus was that the two institutions, which were in close proximity, were competing for students and resources, so the decision was taken to rationalise the secondary places at Charlie Smith High School and then upgrade Trench Town High School to a third stage institution, where it would function as the first Polytechnic College in Jamaica. In August 2017, the institution was designated a member of the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ), making it a Multi-Disciplinary Community College, which focuses heavily on technical and vocational education and training. Principal of the College, Dr. Dosseth Edwards-Watson, tells JIS News that the institution offers diverse courses in continuing, technical and vocational education.
  • “We have the infrastructure that is geared towards hands-on learning, and the institution can best be described as a Workforce College,” she adds.

The Trench Town Polytechnic College, in Kingston, was conceptualised in 2015, when the Ministry of Education took the decision to streamline Charlie Smith High and Trench Town High Schools. Today, the College is changing the lives of hundreds of students with the myriad of courses offered.

The consensus was that the two institutions, which were in close proximity, were competing for students and resources, so the decision was taken to rationalise the secondary places at Charlie Smith High School and then upgrade Trench Town High School to a third stage institution, where it would function as the first Polytechnic College in Jamaica. In August 2017, the institution was designated a member of the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ), making it a Multi-Disciplinary Community College, which focuses heavily on technical and vocational education and training. Principal of the College, Dr. Dosseth Edwards-Watson, tells JIS News that the institution offers diverse courses in continuing, technical and vocational education.

“We have the infrastructure that is geared towards hands-on learning, and the institution can best be described as a Workforce College,” she adds.

According to Dr. Edwards-Watson, the College takes its cue from the HEARTTrust/NTA market surveys, pointing out that the programmes that are offered are not cast in stone and are therefore a response to industries’ demands.

Principal of the Trench Town Polytechnic College, in Kingston, Dr. Dosseth Edwards-Watson.

 

“If a particular industry tells us that they need some bartenders, we are agile enough to make that transition to supply what they want. We do not train for unemployment, we train for workforce,” she says. Presently, there are just under 400 students enrolled at the College and the number is set to increase by February 1, 2019, because the institution was recently designated a Community Training Intervention (CTI) Centre for HEART Trust/NTA and a suite of programmes is set to begin. The institution has 50 members of staff, which include lecturers, administrative and ancillary workers. Dr. Edwards-Watson says that although the majority of the students are from Trench Town and nearby communities, persons from as far as St. Thomas, Clarendon, St. Catherine and rural St. Andrew, are also enrolled at the institution.

There are offerings, including programmes through the Council of Community Colleges, such as Associate Degrees in Culinary Arts, Computer Servicing and Electronics; the Centre of Occupational Studies (COS), the newest training arm of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, which offers Occupational Associate Degrees in Business Process Outsourcing, Allied Health (Geriatrics), and Restaurant Operations.

Vice Principal of the Trench Town Polytechnic College, in Kingston, Sandra Brown (right), looks on as Year two Culinary Arts Students, Shanika Jackson (left) and Lioney Reid (2nd right) prepare to take instructions from Teisha Campbell, Lecturer.

 

The Principal says they have also forged partnerships with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where students have an opportunity to pursue a Certificate in Theatre Arts and Production; and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), where students are exposed to courses in Logistics and Supply Chain Operations, and Warehousing Logistics and Distribution.

They also offer pre-college programmes in Commercial Food Preparation, Auto Body Repairs and customer engagement through the Career Advancement Programme (CAP). Other training partners which lend their support to the institution are Garmex HEART Academy that offers training in Allied Health (Patient Care) and Musical Performance, and the LEAP Centre which trains students in Art and Craft. Fashion Designing and Shoemaking will begin soon through the Queen’s Young Leaders Grant, sponsored by Digicel Foundation.

Dr. Edwards-Watson explains that in terms of matriculation requirements to pursue the various programmes, students who want to register for the Community College programme in Culinary Arts, and Computer Servicing and Electronics need to have at least five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, General Certificate of Education (GCE) subjects or Secondary School Certificate (SSC) subjects, range four or five, and must include Mathematics and English. There is also a mature entrance requirement, where potential students’ portfolio of work can be assessed to gain entry.

For the Centre of Occupation Studies (COS) programmes, matriculation is Level two, National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET), acquired through CAP, which guarantees a full scholarship on tuition paid for by the Education Ministry. All other programmes require at least one CSEC or the equivalent, which could be a SSC, GCE or City and Guild in Mathematics and English. Individuals who do not meet this minimal requirement are afforded the opportunity to sit and must pass the HEART Trust/NTA Diagnostic Assessment Test, which will verify if they are reading at the Grade Nine level.

Dr. Edwards-Watson is appealing to youngsters who may feel disillusioned, to come in and register.

“We have something for everyone, and one of the things that we are big on here is the affective skills. Our facility is geared towards a holistic approach to training, it is not only about skills training, but there are Mentors to help students be the best that they can be.

However, it is not only the young that we want to register, as through the newly established CTI we can accommodate individuals from 17 to 99 years old,” she says. Coming out of this legendary inner-city community are some of Jamaica’s most renowned musicians, so it is no surprise that the College’s one year-old Trench Town Rockers Band is doing well.

According to Dr. Edwards-Watson, the band was formed a year ago and is managed by Mr. Nyron Creary, Musical Director, who teaches males, some of whom have never played a musical instrument before, to be excellent at their craft.

“It is nothing short of a miracle what he has done with those boys. He has got them to near perfection. They have a repertoire of songs that they play covering the wide genre from Ska to Contemporary,” she notes. The College is funded solely by the Education

Ministry, but receives well needed support from several of its training partners and organisations, such as the Salvation Army, Food for the Poor, ITEL Smart Solutions, CMU, Lions Club of Mona, Sherwin Williams, Digicel Foundation, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Kingston Wharves Limited, National Library of Jamaica, and Rainforest Seafood.

“Going forward we will be creating linkages with overseas Polytechnics. As the first one of its kind in Jamaica, the foundation is laid, so we want to reach out to others in terms of best practices, the sharing of resources and training of staff,” Dr. Edwards-Watson says.