JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Education and training are regarded as key components of Vision 2030, a 23-year development plan, which seeks to position the country as a place of choice to live, work, do business, and raise families.
  • To this end, the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust/National Training Agency (NTA), has embarked on the development of a (five-year) strategic plan, aimed at linking the training institution's activities with Vision 2030, which is being spearheaded by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
  • Executive Director of HEART/NTA, Donald Foster, says that over the next five years, focus will primarily be placed on the development of the Agency as an enabler and facilitator for industry and enterprises, thereby assisting stakeholders and interests in those areas, to improve productivity and competitiveness, as this is "the only way (that) Jamaica. can develop economically."

Education and training are regarded as key components of Vision 2030, a 23-year development plan, which seeks to position the country as a place of choice to live, work, do business, and raise families.

To this end, the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust/National Training Agency (NTA), has embarked on the development of a (five-year) strategic plan, aimed at linking the training institution’s activities with Vision 2030, which is being spearheaded by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

Executive Director of HEART/NTA, Donald Foster, says that over the next five years, focus will primarily be placed on the development of the Agency as an enabler and facilitator for industry and enterprises, thereby assisting stakeholders and interests in those areas, to improve productivity and competitiveness, as this is “the only way (that) Jamaica. can develop economically.”

“We see our role as leveraging that comparative and competitive advantage, in facilitating and enabling the expansion of quality technical and vocational training and workforce development, throughout the entire education system in Jamaica, so that we can produce the kind of human capital that can help our people to be come more prosperous. (Additionally) to help Jamaica to become a developed country. to enjoy developed country status,” the Executive Director tells JIS News.

Mr. Foster adds that emphasis and focus will be placed heavily on improving the quality of the workforce, by seeking to improve on the quality of the entry requirements into the training system.

“We will seek to infuse technical and vocational education and training in our secondary schools, so that graduates of our secondary schools will leave with a National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NVQ-J) or a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ),” the HEART Executive states.

The NVQ-J is a certificate of competence awarded to a graduate of a HEART institution, as proof that he/she, having completed a course of study, has acquired the requisite skills, knowledge, and understanding to perform in accordance with workplace requirements. The National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) is the arm of HEART responsible for awarding certification.

The CVQ is Caribbean Community (CARICOM) approved certification, which enables the holder to gain employment in any member country of the organisation.Infusion of technical and vocational education in the secondary school curriculum, Mr. Foster notes, would complement the Ministry of Education’s plan to move the school leaving age up to 18 years.

“The thinking is that all of our students will leave secondary school with a technical and vocational qualification of choice, so that they will have the flexibility of moving into the world of work, or into higher learning, as they choose,” he says

The HEART Trust, which falls under the Ministry of Education, was established in 1982 following the promulgation of the HEART Act in Parliament. Mr. Foster explains that the Agency was established in response to high unemployment, particularly among young people, which existed at the time. The organisation, eventually, evolved into the National Training Agency of Jamaica.

“HEART Trust/NTA’s role is to prepare persons for the workforce and to ensure that we (in Jamaica), have a trained and certified workforce to assist our enterprises to become more productive, and, as a result of that, much more competitive,” Mr. Foster informs.

He points out that the Agency’s challenge has been to get the local workforce up to a level, equal to or better than those of other countries, with which Jamaica competes in various products and services. HEART, he adds, has been responding to those needs.

“We train persons for all the priority sectors of the Jamaican economy. Over the years, the response of HEART has shifted with the demand of the economic sector. Not only qualitatively, but quantitatively. The reality is that the workforce has been growing, changing, and shifting,” the Executive Director states.

He informs that up to five years ago, the Agency was enrolling between 30,000 and 40,000 persons into its institutions islandwide. Total enrollment in the various training programmes offered at

the 30 institutions islandwide, for the 2007/08 academic year, grew to over 100,000.

Programmes are offered in agriculture, apparel and sewn products, industrial maintenance, construction skills, automotive skills, information and communications technology, and hospitality. The latter has accounted for the largest percentage of trainees over the past five years. Noting the exponential growth in the tourism sector, Mr. Foster says some 30,000 persons are projected to be enrolled for that programme, for the 2008/09 academic year.

Mr. Foster notes that initially, the academies were “single sector” institutions, offering specific courses. As such, individuals desirous of pursuing those courses had to apply to the particular institution offering same.

“So we would have learners from all over Jamaica, coming into these institutions, because some of them do have residential facilities. Now, most of those academies have diversified their training programmes (and) they no longer focus on any single sector. They will maintain their dominant sector, but their programmes are very diverse now, to respond to industry needs,” he explains.

The Executive Director points out, however, that three of the institutions, the School of Cosmetology, specialising in beauty programmes, and Jamaica/German Automotive School, specialising in automotive technology, both in Kingston, and the Cornwall Automotive Training Centre in Flankers, Montego Bay St. James, which offers the same course, are the only institutions currently offering single sector programmes.

These institutions, Mr. Foster says, are supported by a network of some 100 community-based vocational training centres, that partner with HEART to bring training to residents in the communities in which they operate. While offering the same types of programmes as the academies, Mr. Foster says the vocational training centres were more community-focussed, based on the economic needs of the residents.

“What you will find now, is that all of our institutions are offering a range of training programmes, based on the needs of the enterprises in the areas that they serve,” he outlines.

The other major modality, through which HEART trains and certifies the local workforce, is enterprise-based, or on the job training, through which Mr. Foster says the Agency is catering to a large pool of persons.

“For this year, we will be training some 20,000 persons via that modality. These are persons who will be. working and preparing themselves for certification as they train,” he outlines. Mr. Foster explains that HEART’s training programmes are market-driven, adding that the organisation’s technical operating model starts with the market.

“We train and certify for employment. The training must be linked to the needs of the marketplace, so that our people, at the end of their training, there is a very high probability that they will end up in employment,” he states.

The HEART Trust Executive Director, advises that the Agency works in close partnership with employers, whom he says have also been providing funding through their payment of a three per cent tax levy. This partnership, he points out, ensures that the Agency is responding to the employers’ needs to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of their businesses.

“As a matter of fact, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF). We have partnership arrangements with the Incorporated MasterBuilders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ), we have strong partnerships with the hotel sector, through the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), we have a close working relationship with the Chambers of Commerce in the various regions in Jamaica, and we work very closely with the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA),” Mr. Foster outlines.

In addition, the Executive Director says that HEART stages regular marketing activities with the private sector, through its Regional Programme Services Department. These include: employment fairs and recruitment drives. He noted that the Agency is not only in the business of training persons, but also assists with job placements.

“The reality is that, because we are working to satisfy the needs of the industry, it is important that we have this close association (with employers), so that they can inform what we do,” Mr. Foster says.

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