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Prime Minister Bruce Golding has instructed the HEART Trust/National Training Agency (NTA ) to collaborate with Jamaica Trade and Invest to review the country’s projected skills training requirements, against a background of changing and dynamic business and investment opportunities .
One of the new frontiers which Prime Minister Golding wants explored is the establishment of a vocational training institution on the north coast to train craft workers, in a move to offer higher quality craft items to the tourism sector. HEART/NTA has been mandated to investigate the establishment of this craft training facility working through the Ministry of Education and the governments of Nigeria and Haiti, which have indicated their interest in providing assistance in training in this area. The Prime Minister has also called on the training institute to develop training programmes for the fire, maritime and police force.
‘The needs on the global market have become so dynamic that there may be opportunities being created in some dimensions and we may not be there with our training programmes’, Mr. Golding asserted.
Mr. Golding gave the directives on February 7 when he, along with Education Minister Andrew Holness and other government officials, met at Jamaica House with representatives of HEART/NTA led by its Executive Director, Donald Foster.
Mr. Golding expressed concern that despite the considerable work being done by HEART/NTA, the labour force report showed negligible movement in terms of the level of certified Jamaican workforce which remains under 30-percent, according to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). The Prime Minister also expressed concern over a report by the Minister of Education, Andrew Holness that while schools were graduating some 53,000 students, only 15,000 were on their way to worthwhile achievements while the remaining 30,000 were excluded from the system. He said the Ministry had new ideas about the reconfiguration of the school system and that HEART/NTA would be required to play a critical role in increasing both the quality and quantity of training within the schools.
In outlining the organisation’s commitment to providing a Jamaican workforce trained and certified to international standards, HEART/NTA’s Executive Director, Donald Foster gave the assurance that the organisation has been working closely with the schools. He said HEART/NTA can provide all the technical assistance support to get the schools accredited to the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NVQJ) programme. This, he said would take the pressure off HEART/NTA’s 28 intuitions. He said HEART/NTA was anxious to reserve spaces in the academies and vocational training centres to address the matter of upgrading the existing workforce and to focus more on the upgrading of higher level qualifications. Mr. Foster said if HEART got graduates with good literacy and numeracy skills, it would be able to train them to international standards in the respective skill areas. He said the institution would like to see high school graduates leaving school with their CXC passes along with their NVQJ certificates.
Education Minister, Andrew Holness noted that while the vocational training programme provided skills training in specific areas, it does not allow markets to clear very well in terms of the allocated efficiency and if there is a major industry shift, people with one set of skills will not readily articulate into another set of skills. Mr. Holness said there is the need to have training institutions that are ‘nimble so that they can shift resources right away to re-train’.
For the current year, the HEART/NTA programme is expected to enroll some 104,000 persons in its various training programmes. Since its inception 25 years ago, HEART has trained persons in the areas of tourism and hospitality, building and construction, information and communications technology, agriculture, cosmetology, apparel and sewn products, and commercial skills.