The Kitson Town Skills Training Centre, St. Catherine, which is affiliated to HEART/NTA, has been transforming and equipping persons from the area for a second chance in gaining lifelong skills, since 1998.
Recent graduate and mother of four, Sonia Scott, a fine example of the work the centre has been doing willingly tells her story to JIS News.
Miss Scott left school over 30 years ago and had been working as a self-taught cook at small establishments. However, because she had no certification, it was a challenge obtaining work.
“I heard about the programme, I checked it out, did a test and started. It has changed my life, I have learned to work better with other people,” she said of the Food Preparation programme offered at the Centre.
“We had old and young and people from different backgrounds involved. Some of us knew nothing, some knew it all, but we helped each other along the way,” she recalled.
In sharing her experiences with JIS News, she says that team work and communications were some of the things the instructors focused on.
“If you do not have proper communication skills, it affects the work environment, so they focus a lot on these areas. We had great teachers who tek time wid us: My maths has improved tremendously,” she explains.
She says that they learnt to write resumes, as well as research information on places that they would wish to seek employment.
“I used to go by name alone, where people who knew what I could do would recommend me on that alone. That is not working again. Employers want to know where you were trained, so. I am glad I did it. The entrepreneurial section taught a lot on where to obtain loans for setting up businesses, how to write a business plan, where to put up a particular business and how to balance your money,” she remembers.
Another graduate, Carol Thomas, who has now been an instructor with the Centre for four years, tells JIS News that her hope is for the facility to be expanded.
Food Preparation Instructor at the Kitson Town Skills Training Centre (centre), reviews the institution’s training manual with, from left: Chair of the Centre, Maureen Edwards-Haywood; Co-ordinator, Juliet Latibeaudiere; former student, Sonia Scott; and current students, Camille Angus And Shevaun Bailey.
“I left secondary school with 4 CXCs, I tried to obtain employment and it wasn’t there. That programme helped me to gain a skill. It has pushed me into a job. It can take you to just anywhere that you want to go,” she reflects.
“We have mentors who will help you in the coaching and mentoring that you need. When I see our former students on the road in their work uniforms, and some of the large corporations that they are working with, I say thanks to HEART,” Miss. Thomas says.
Current student and single mother, Camille Angus, tells JIS News that the Centre helps to prevent idleness and, at the same time, create empowerment.
She recommends the Team Jamaica training, which taught her facts about Jamaica for two weeks.
“The entire programme lasted for six months. At the end, you sit a test and, if successful, you receive a Certificate from HEART/NTA. With this certification, we can work anywhere in the world, and I urge persons to make use of the offer, get the skills. You can move to other levels in the training, and can also go on to the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI),” she points out.
Seventeen-year-old Shevaun Bailey, who is only weeks away from graduating at Level 1, says he intends to go onto levels II and III.
“I want to go to college to do foods at a degree level. The programme is a stepping stone to a great future. The training that is offered here is worth the $2,000 that it costs, and I thank them for it,” he said.
Chairperson of the Kitson Town Skills Training Programme, Maureen Edwards-Haywood, says that in 1998 the initiative was geared at taking persons off the Food Stamps Programme, which preceded the social safety net PATH programme.
“The Government wanted to eliminate that (Food Stamps) programme, but wanted to provide the beneficiaries with skills, so they established Skills2000 targeting the unemployed and unemployable,” she informs JIS News.
“Two persons from the community, Mrs. Stella Wilkins, and Miss. Lyma Ogilvie, helped to introduce the programme to this community. Out of this programme, we have had a dressmaker, who became an instructor with the Centre. Our current Food Preparation instructor too, is a graduate from the Centre, and we have to be thankful,” she says.
She adds that the plan is to expand the facility and offer other types of training, including general hospitality and, in conjunction with Jamaica Foundation for Life-Long Learning (JFLL), tackle literacy among the males in the community.
The Centre sometimes sells baked products and the proceeds are used to offset its operational expenses.