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The HEART Trust/NTA and Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) have partnered to undertake a $15.2 million Vocational Training Project for young persons between 17 and 35 years of age.

This project will last for 12 months and will target persons in six communities in St. Catherine, who are deemed 'unattached'.

The educational and vocational training programme will benefit persons in the communities of March Pen, Knollis, Lauriston, Central Village, Tawes Meadows, and Shelter Rock, and they will attend the HEART Trust/NTA Portmore Academy and Above Rocks Skills Training Centre in St. Catherine.

Funding is being provided by JSIF through two of its donor funded projects, the Inner City Basic Services Project (ICBSP), which is contributing $8.75 million, and the Japan Social Development Fund Grant (JSDF), which is providing $5 million. An additional $1.46 million is also being provided by the participants' communities.  

The collaboration was formalised with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by HEART and JSIF on Tuesday (October 9), at the Portmore Academy.

Outlining details of the initiative at the ceremony, JSDF Project Manager, Ayanna Demetrius, said some 90 persons have been shortlisted for enrolment at both institutions, 70 at the Portmore Academy, and 20 at the Above Rocks Skills Centre.

She informed that the 70 participants enrolled at Portmore, comprising 45 males and 25 females, commenced training in March, and were given the opportunity to select from any one of four courses in food preparation, building construction, plumbing or electrical installation. Their period of training is slated to end in March 2013.

Mrs. Demetrius advised that assessments for the 20 potential trainees for Above Rocks are currently being undertaken with their course options being: business administration; cosmetology; data operations; electrical installation; and general construction. The successful candidates will commence training in November.

"Also included in the training curriculum are information technology, entrepreneurial skills, life skills and remedial education. The proposed skills training intervention will result in HEART Trust/NTA National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level I…(or) Level II certification…based on the matriculation of the participants," she added.

HEART Trust Executive Director, Dr. Carolyn Hayle, described the collaboration as an "extremely powerful link," while underscoring the need for the agencies to further cement the partnership, and embark on similar initiatives in other areas.

In a brief message, read by JSIF's General Manager for Human Resource, Communication, and Administration, Rhonda Lumsden-Lue, the agency’s Managing Director, Scarlette Gillings, said the partnership between JSIF and HEART “solidifies” the Government's efforts to place education at the forefront of Jamaica’s development priorities.

Mrs. Gillings noted that since its inception, JSIF has allocated approximately one-third of its budget to educational engagements. This, she informed, included infrastructure development, the provision of equipment, and establishing partnerships to facilitate access to skills training.

She commended the HEART Trust for "creating a highly skilled, productive and competitive workforce," during its 30 years of existence, which has ultimately redounded to Jamaica's development.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary, Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, Pastor Ronnie Henry, lauded the partnership between the HEART Trust and JSIF, describing it as "one step further in ensuring that so many more of our youth are given the privilege and opportunity to become the persons they can be."

"I believe HEART Trust/NTA and JSIF are today doing something that will help to change the landscape for our young people who are at risk. When our youth are empowered…the whole community benefits in a positive way. When a person realises that by making the correct choices in life, it will emphatically change their path for the future, then the person, the family, the friend, and the entire neighbourhood will profit from this re-direction," he argued.