JIS News

Civil Servants are being encouraged to take advantage of the various training opportunities provided under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Government and trade unions representing public sector workers.
Vice President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Helen Davis Whyte, tells JIS News, that through the training initiatives, which comprises capacity building and skills training, public sector workers are able to get the requisite education that may enable them to access promotions whenever these arise. “Also, employers would have a more trained workforce that they are able to use efficiently,” she points out.
In addition, she says, the training provides “an opportunity for persons to actually equip themselves with skills that, in the event that the Government somewhere down the road has to be downsizing, they are better able to seek opportunities in the job market or become self employed”.
“While you may not be able to have a job for life, you will have a skill for life and that will enable you to be able to deal with almost anything that faces you down the road, and be able to take advantage of opportunities whenever they arise,” she adds.
In February 2004, when the Government and the trade unions signed the public sector MoU for the implementation of collaborative measures to promote the country’s sustainable development, included in the agreement was a commitment to improve the quality of the labour force through training, retraining and education, and the maintenance of core labour standards in the public sector.
In keeping with this commitment, two types of training programmes – a Tertiary Education Assistance Programme and a Skills Training Programme – were implemented to prepare the workforce for the needs of a modern labour market.
Under the Tertiary Education Assistance Programme, employees in the public sector are able to access higher education through a loan that is made available to them at a minimal interest rate. Courses are offered in 27 subject areas including customer service, career management, computer repairs, web design, risk management, effective report writing, public speaking, and communication.
Through the Skills Training component, public sector workers can access training in some 30 skill areas that may bear no relation to the particular job they are doing, such as drapery making, engineering, masonry, child care, and interior decorating.
“This was initially only for ancillary staff in the public sector,” Mrs. Davis Whyte explains, “but it was eventually expanded to include all workers in the public sector, as we found that many persons, who were interested in the programme.”
Public sector workers are able to access the skills training at the HEART Trust/ NTA and some community colleges such as the Montego Bay Community College in St. James.
“What we generally do is look at the programmes that HEART offers and that list is sent to the various human resources departments and they make them available to the staff, who apply, and it is supposed to be done on a first-come, first-served basis, although priority is given to persons, who are accessing the programme for the first time,” Mrs. Davis Whyte tells JIS News.
She informs that most courses are offered full time and persons are allowed to take time from work so as to be able to participate in the programme.
“Some of the skills that are offered by HEART are really not done part time, so we will get together a number of persons that will make a class size and then HEART will run the programme for that particular class,” she says.
In addition to the personal improvement, the JCTU Vice President says that through the training programme, workers will be equipped with skills, with which they can supplement their income.
“We recognise that the salary that is paid often times is inadequate to maintain an entire family, so we view it as a means of being able to supplement income,” noting that, “it enables them to have more opportunities in terms of accessing jobs”.
“From the point of view of the employer, our belief is that with those kinds of programmes, the employer is able to have a workforce, which is more satisfied,” she adds.
In terms of the future of the training programmes, the JCTU Vice President says the initiative should definitely be continued, as it is accepted that “one should not only be focussing on narrow wage issues as such, but be looking at areas which will equip workers with skills for life.”
Approximately 4,000 persons have benefitted from the skills training programme since 2004, while more than $200 million has been set aside in the 2008/09 budget, to provide loans for tertiary education to public servants.

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