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JIS News

The training and certification of a nation’s workforce is necessary in order for it to compete in the global world.
Hence, the HEART Trust /National Training Agency (HEART Trust/ NTA), is facilitating access to training, competence assessment and certification to all working age Jamaicans.
“Our main function and role is to prepare the Jamaican workforce to compete in a globalized and regionalized environment in which we find ourselves.
Because, globalisation really means that every worker, no matter what kind of work he or she is doing, has to be as equal in their preparation, education and their training and their certification to enable them to compete,” says Robert Gregory, Executive Director of the HEART Trust/NTA, in an interview with JIS News.
“We have to prepare, assess and certify our workforce in all the myriad of occupations, in all the sectors of our economy, so that our workers can compete with their counterparts around the world and by extension our economy can compete,” he adds.
For the fiscal year 2005/06, HEART enrolled a total of 85,854 persons, which was a 41 per cent increase over the previous year’s 61,040. Of the total enrolment last year, 55 per cent were females and 45 per cent were males. Last year 55,854 individuals completed the HEART Trust training programmes.
The total enrolment at HEART academies and training centres for the new 2006/07 academic year is projected at 88,375 persons, and the HEART Trust/NTA will also be spending $40 million on new projects. Every year the HEART Trust/NTA enters into new partnerships or projects with organizations such as, churches, schools, and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“We essentially provide them with the resources, so people can access training through them, the same standard of training that you will find at a HEART operated institution or community college. It is the same curriculum we use and these persons now become part of the training system. We provide them with curriculum, learning material, learner guides, instructor guides, and assessment instruments,” Mr. Gregory tells JIS News.
He adds that this is the only way the HEART Trust is able to expand enrolment for training.
“Some five years ago, we were at about 33,000 persons enrolled in training per year, for this year we are expected to enroll over 100,100 persons, and this is without adding any new academy or vocational training centres.
“It is through partnerships that this $40 million will help us to establish other outposts, so people can access the same quality training, leading to the same national vocational qualification certification,” he points out.
According to Mr. Gregory, the $40 million may be spent on new projects, such as Hospitality Tourism, Construction and Information Communications Technology. He adds that these are the main areas of concentration, and where most of the training take place.
“Occupations in those sectors are what we are going to be focusing on. For instance in Hospitality Tourism, a particular partner might want to do food and beverage. Food and beverage encapsulate a number of occupations – waiters, bartenders and food persons,” he says.
The Executive Director explains that if partners (schools or churches) see a demand in the community for a specific kind of occupational training, they would partner with the HEART Trust to provide the curriculum for them, so that they can allow the community members to access the training, the assessment and the certification.
The HEART Trust has been playing an active role in a number of NGOs, such as Mel Nathan Institute, Girls Town and Boys Town, through its community based projects.
Mr. Gregory tells JIS News that the NGOs have responded very well to the work that his organization has been doing. “They have been very assertive in identifying the needs in their communities and partnering with us in a positive way to address these needs,” he says.
Rachel Thompson, Principal of the Professional Development Institute and Girls Town tells JIS News that the HEART Trust has sponsored and certified learners in cosmetology, food preparations and house-keeping at level one.
“We have been doing this for a number of years and things have evolved and now we actually do level two as well in food preparations. We have enrolled about 70 persons just now in our programme.and we have 70 persons who will be doing their final assessment very soon,” says Miss Thompson.
She adds that the facility also does unit assessments for those persons who only want to do a unit or two units of a particular course and be certified in those units.
“What the HEART Trust has recognized is that there are persons in the industry and they are not necessarily qualified, but they know their job, and so one of the thrusts has been to certify persons on the job; they do not have to leave their jobs and sit down for six months,” Miss Thompson says.
She points out that the students who take part in the HEART Trust programme have been responding positively.
“It has been positive, as the HEART Trust is being recognized as the national training agency and with the new thrust towards certification, it is very hard these days to get a job without a piece of paper, and so more persons are coming in to be trained. They are recognizing that having a little certificate from a school that is not as recognized, is really not going to cut it,” she says.
The HEART Trust also provides training programmes within the Secondary School system, through two main programmes – the Rationalization of Technical and Vocational Educational Training in Secondary Schools and the Technical High School Development Project.
“Both are really geared to the same objective. They are geared toward enabling our young people to leave fifth form with their Caribbean Examination Council certification along with an occupational certification,” Mr. Gregory points out.
He adds that one of the difficulties is that young persons have a problem in making the transition from school to work.
“They go for interviews and when they are confronted by the employer who says what you can do, they respond and say I have six subjects. The employer says yes, I understand that you are an educated person, but what can you do, what kind of occupational preparation do you have,” Mr. Gregory says.
The HEART Trust is seeking to introduce occupational training and certification in fourth and fifth forms, so that students can acquire occupational certification, which will complement their general certification. According to Mr. Gregory, this will facilitate the smooth transition from school to work.
Some of the schools that participate in the HEART Trust/NTA’s Rationalization of Technical and Vocational Educational Training include Hampton High School, Frome Technical High School and St. Elizabeth Technical High School.
Mr. Gregory tells JIS News that the HEART Trust has just started the same programme within the Corporate Area in 16 schools.
The Technical High School Development Project is in all 14 technical high schools across the island.
Since its inception, the HEART Trust/NTA has achieved many of its goals, and according to Mr. Gregory, the agency has been able to bring to the focus of every one, the importance of preparing the Jamaican workforce.
“Right now we are supporting the campaign to get our workforce certified to participate in the free movement within the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Only certified skilled workers will be able to move and so we are working feverishly to try and have half of our workforce certified by the end of 2008. It’s a very tough target to meet, but it is one that is very important for us, if each and every worker is to benefit from the CSME as well as globalisation,” he says.
“It is time that people assume responsibility for their own learning, and those of us who are in school, stay in school and make the full use of it. It is education that is going to make you trainable, and the training will make you employable,” Mr. Gregory emphasizes.
The HEART Trust/NTA was established in 1982 and is financed through a compulsory 3 per cent payroll deduction levied on qualified private sector firms, which is supplemented by assistance from international partners.
Its main functions are to finance, develop and monitor employment-training programmes, assist in placing graduates seeking jobs and to promote employment projects.