Jamaica’s national training agency, the HEART/ NSTA Trust has introduced a virtual orientation process for the 2020/21 academic year, which begins September.
The entity’s managing director, Dr. Janet Dyer, told JIS News that the objective is to avoid mass gatherings at the training facilities as the country continues to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
She said that students can use their devices to access and complete the orientation package.
“So we don’t have to meet them in large groups. Persons would log in to our Webex platform; we have webinars, lectures and promotions where persons can win scholarships, just to get them motivated and encouraged and to let them know that, as the national training agency, COVID-19 is not stopping us. It’s not business as usual, its business unusual,” Dr. Dyer said.
She told JIS News that with the suspension of face-to-face training in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency employed several initiatives to ensure the continued engagement of students.
She noted that lessons were delivered through online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Moodle, Webex and Whatsapp. She said that persons, who did not have access to technology, were not left behind.
“We printed learning material and we would deliver then to students or they would come and pick up the material (at the institutions), do the work and then return it. So we tried just about everything to ensure that we kept our trainees engaged,” she said.
In addition, she informed that “we had students do their cooking practical at home, video tape it and send it via Whatsapp to the instructors, who would speak to them on the phone and critique it and then they would go back and practice.”
Dr. Dyer told JIS News that the agency also developed training videos.
“We partnered with the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) and developed training videos, now being aired on PBCJ and affiliate cable networks. So we have 22 videos currently being aired on PBCJ and the HEART Youtube channel,” she said.
She told JIS News that at the agency resumed classes for some students at the beginning of July.
“What we did was bring in small groups of students into some of the institutions to do their practical assessments that were outstanding. We also brought in some of them to do just practice so that they would be ready for assessment,” Dr. Dyer explained.
She said that social distancing and proper hand washing and sanitising were observed.
The HEART/NSTA Trust is the island’s largest provider of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
The agency focuses on practical, competency-based training, which empowers trainees to transition into real workplace scenarios.