JIS News

The Knockalva Polytechnic College (KPC) is expanding its Men Setting Standards Initiative (MSSI), to reach more males beyond the institution’s campus.

Earlier this month, and approximately five months after male members of staff at the Hanover-based institution launched the programme at the college, they hosted a one-day forum targeted at boys in primary and secondary schools in the parish and neighbouring St. James.

The session was supported by the college administration as well as female teachers and students.

It featured presentations by three professionals, who shared the challenges they encountered growing up in poverty and struggling academically throughout their school lives but beating the odds to emerge leaders in their chosen fields.

The speakers highlighted the importance of the soft skills in their success.

MSSI was born out of a recognition by the males of the KPC that, in their professional and personal pursuits, they needed to operate at a higher level, and that developing soft skills was an important factor in achieving their goals.

MSSI Coordinator, Clavia McFarlane, told JIS News that the focus of the session was on inculcating the seven soft skills, that will help the male students lead successful lives during their school years and beyond.

“We have developed a curriculum that includes the development of emotional intelligence, leadership skills, strong work ethic, teamwork, communication skills, adaptability, and chief among them is problem-solving skills. This is the ability to solve problems, understand situations thoroughly, identify underlying issues, and find solutions,” he noted.

He expressed confidence that the programme will impact generations to come.

“The plan is to expand the programme throughout western Jamaica but we’re starting small and will continue to [reach] more schools as time goes by,” he said.

Educator, Nicolar Gordon, who was one of the presenters at the session, related the experience of growing up in a volatile area in St. James, and after overcoming a “series of failures throughout his school life”, he was able to triumph and has been making a difference in the lives of those he now teaches.

He said he is guided by the philosophy that “with a plan and a vision, everything is possible”.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from; it is where you are going to end up in the future that matters,” Mr. Gordon told the students.

Insurance Executive, Christoph Samuels, who grew up in the same community as Mr. Gordon, said that at school, he was not the best student and gave “whole heap a trouble” but he had a teacher who was “instrumental in changing me as a person so I didn’t go down the wrong path”.

Mr. Samuels stressed the importance of developing soft skills, noting that this was a major factor in him now occupying the post of senior advisor in a major insurance company at age 24.

Educator Najay Smith, for his part, said that embracing soft skills is a move on the right path at all levels of the education system, noting that “this will help us for life”.

He cited a study which indicated that 77 per cent of employers view soft skills as being just as good as hard skills.

Imploring students to adopt the soft skills, Mr. Smith said “they can make or break you as a person”.

Knockalva Polytechnic College Principal, Pauleen Reid, applauded the men of the college for conceptualising the initiative, noting that “it came out of the concern for humanity” and to make a contribution to national development.

“They have come to realise that character building has to be the linchpin for one’s well-being,” she added.

The MSSI was endorsed by Lead Representative for the Special Service Desk for Men and Boys at the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Nashan Miller, who represented Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Denzil Thorpe, at the event.

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