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Graduate of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s Utility Wardens Programme, Denese Austin, delivers her valedictory speech at the graduation ceremony.
Photo: Contributed

Story Highlights

  • Denese Austin did not see how a certified practical nurse could move from a profession of caring for sick patients to fixing leaks and laying pipes.
  • However, she would soon realise that sometimes the situation persons find themselves in will take them down an entirely new path.
  • Miss Austin, who is a certified practical nurse, had been unemployed for almost two years, following the death of her patient, when she first learnt of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Utility Wardens Programme.

Denese Austin did not see how a certified practical nurse could move from a profession of caring for sick patients to fixing leaks and laying pipes.

However, she would soon realise that sometimes the situation persons find themselves in will take them down an entirely new path.

Miss Austin, who is a certified practical nurse, had been unemployed for almost two years, following the death of her patient, when she first learnt of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Utility Wardens Programme.

“The Data Collector from JSIF in my community came to me and told me about the programme, and I said plumbing! From nursing to plumbing,” she tells JIS News.

Miss Austin says she later signed up for the programme, stayed the course and emerged a proud graduate, and was given the duty as Valedictorian of her class.

She is one of 15 females who participated and graduated from the Utility Wardens Programme on February 25, at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston. A total of 93 participants graduated.

The Utility Wardens Programme is an initiative carried out by JSIF under the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP).

The programme, which is aimed at empowering at-risk youth, through training across 18 communities in seven parishes – Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Clarendon. St. Ann, Westmoreland and St James – saw participants completing courses in advanced leak detection, water auditing and basic plumbing procedures.

Training was delivered by Change Makers Limited, with support from the Institute of International Recognised Qualifications (IIRQ).

Miss Austin says that for her it was pure joy being among a group of women who challenged the status quo and successfully completed a programme where men are always at the forefront.

“I am so proud. I am there shoulder to shoulder with the men in a male-dominated field,” she tells JIS News.

According to her, the entire course content was meaningful and can be applied to her day-to-day life.

She says that participants were not just exposed to plumbing but were also taught soft skills, a necessary attribute when on the job.

“I can truly say that the programme broadened my knowledge in the plumbing area. Now I don’t need to get anyone to come and do my plumbing if I have a leak or I need to change out anything,” she says, adding that it saves her money and that she now knows how to better conserve on water.

Miss Austin, who lives in the inner-city community of Maxfield Avenue, says that with her newly acquired skill set, she has become more marketable and is now placed in a position where she may be called on to do small plumbing-related jobs within her community, giving her an opportunity to earn an income.

Managing Director, JSIF, Omar Sweeney, says that the Fund, as one of the Government’s leading project management agencies, is committed to investing in several impactful areas, including education.

He adds that that close to 1,000 unattached youth benefited from the ICDP over the past year, the implementation of which is made possible through a loan agreement between the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank.

As it relates to the Utility Wardens Programme, Mr. Sweeney says that along with the training received, “graduates will receive a tool kit and will participate in a three- month internship with the National Water Commission (NWC)”.

For Miss Austin, she plans to use the internship opportunity to gain experience, with the hope of securing a permanent job with the agency.

She is encouraging other women within her community and others across Jamaica to participate in JSIF’s Integrated Community Development Project.

All 93 graduates were presented with certificates from the IIRQ for Specialised Training in Advanced Water Audit and Treatment.

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