JIS News

For more than two decades the Mandeville Craft Institute (MCI), at 1 Grove Road, has been making an indelible mark on the lives of young Jamaicans seeking to acquire income-generating skills.
Originally established by the Rotary Club of Mandeville in the early 1980’s, the Institute then catered mostly to the needs of young mothers who had dropped out of school and were therefore in need of a second chance to become worthwhile productive citizens of the society.
Chairman of the management committee of the MCI, Ouida Fay Rowe tells JIS News how the institution evolved over the years.
“In the early 1980’s MCI specialized in embroidery and needle craft and it catered mostly to women but is suffered from lack of funding even though it was managed by the Social Development Commission. When I was appointed as the community relations representative for Alcan Jamaica, I saw the need for a skills centre for Mandeville. I met with the person in charge of the MCI at the time, and she showed me what she wanted to do but could not because of the lack of funding. I thought it was a worthy project that we could be involved with and so I started to help with the expansion of the project,” she explains.
Mrs. Rowe says the programme was upgraded to include cookery, garment manufacturing and straw work.
“The population at the time was about 30 persons and it was quite an interesting mix of subjects, at the end of each year we would hopefully graduate between 25 to 30 persons,” she says.
Overall it had been a very rewarding experience to see young people achieve their full potential, she notes, pointing out that after completing the course the graduates got placement very easily on the job market.
Meanwhile, in the early 90s when Alcan began winding down operations in Jamaica, funding to the MCI was reduced, and the HEART Trust/NTA was approached to provide support to the project.
“They saw what we had and thought that this was a good project for them to buy into and that is how they came on board in 1992 and since that time they have increased our enrolled population from 25 to 99 because we now have to operate two in the morning and one in the afternoon,” she declares.
The MCI Chairman points out that through the new partnership the programme had received a very serious boost in terms of new inputs.
Mrs. Rowe notes that even though HEART was highly visible the other partners still continued to play a part. “Windalco (formerly Alcan) still puts in some funds through United Way, the SDC sits on the board as well as the Rotary Club,” she adds.
Mrs. Rowe boasts that each graduate from the Institute is able to hold his own both at home and abroad. “Some of them actually go abroad and work in the hotel industry,” she informs.
“For the future I would like to see further expansion of the tourism hospitality side and also information technology,” she points out.
Coordinator for the MCI, Rowena Murray, tells JIS News that the programmes offered at the Institute are “food preparation support subjects such as maths and English and beginners French. We have also started the new NCTVET model called the restaurant server,” she states.
She says the Institute has five full time and five part-time employees. Sessions begin from 7:30 a.m. and runs to 6 p.m., she adds.
Turning to the male/female ratio, Mrs. Murray says there are currently 18 males and 82 females at the Institute.
“The programme runs for nine months and at the end they are tested, there are 10 modules that have to be completed.testing is done in June/July,” she explains.Mrs. Murray points to linkages that could stem from being a graduate of MCI. “As soon as they have registered here their names are entered at the Ministry of Labour.many are interested in getting into food as there (are opportunities) for them to go abroad,” she states.
The Institute, she says, has a reputation for producing quality products, which are in high demand. “We produce items such as cakes, gizzadas, pineapple tarts, and of course our roast top chicken,” she says.
Persons interested in procuring the services of the staff and students of MCI for special functions could contact 961-0257.
Project Officer from HEART/NTA with direct responsibility for MCI, Tameka Allen says the Institute falls under her organisation’s special programmes department. She praises the staff of the MCI, pointing out that the pass rate is 100 per cent in most cases. “Here at MCI there is never a problem with getting people to enrol,” she says.
Miss Allen is encouraging more corporate entities and community groups and organisations in need of help to establish strong links with HEART/NTA.
“HEART Trust focus is training and from time to time we will find communities in need of assistance in the form of equipment and so on, to us skills training is so important as we need more entrepreneurs in Jamaica.these are individuals who will not go looking for a job but through their skill might actually employ others, our track record show that we are doing a lot,” she points out.
A recent graduate of MCI, Rayon Gayle tells JIS News that he was thankful for the opportunity he had been given to learn a skill.
“Currently I work as a chef in a very prominent restaurant at New Green in Mandeville and I just want to encourage other young persons to just enrol in a HEART programme as it can really help you to achieve your potential,” he advises.
Mr. Gayle says he had just walked into the centre from off the street one day and told Mrs. Murray that he would like to be a part of the programme.
“Mrs. Murray said alright I could come in the next day, I even started late but at the end of it I received the coveted ‘Spirit of HEART’ award,” he tells JIS.
The property on which MCI is located belongs to the United Manchester Association, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO). The local Branch of JAMAL is situated in another building approximately 50 metres away.

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