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Research completed by the HEART Trust/NTA into various sectors, has pointed to the need to improve the existing worker profile, to enable the country to continue to benefit from international investment and to compete effectively in regional and global markets.
Manager of the Human Development Unit at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Steven Kerr, who was speaking at the recent launch of the Continuing Education Fair hosted by the Jamaica Social Policy Evaluation (JASPEV) Project, said that the research pointed to concerns in communication, time management and teamwork skills and the ability to adapt and to solve problems.
The findings also showed that the desired worker profile required employees, who are critical thinkers, problem solvers and are equipped with a good basic education as the foundation for on-the-job training. According to Mr. Kerr, “throughout the world, people are faced with a constantly changing work and living environment that demands the progressive acquisition of new skills and abilities. This dynamic environment dictates that citizens adopt an ‘education for the future’ orientation to learning referred to as lifelong learning”.
He said that, “firms in the economy with workers possessing the desired capabilities, should have a competitive advantage, as highly motivated workers ultimately result in increased productivity and output.”
The fair, which was held at the Greenwich Town community centre and the neighbouring Methodist Church, featured a rap session focusing on the concept of lifelong learning, which gave community members an opportunity to share their concerns and make their contribution to the development of the Lifelong Learning Policy for Jamaica.
The activities also included presentations on topics of importance to community development, such as parenting, entrepreneurship, career planning, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse awareness. Patrons were provided with opportunities to try various skills deemed important to the community at the ‘TRY-A-TRADE’ booth.
Public Relations Manager at JASPEV, Keron Morris, noted that continuing education was identified as a crucial area of policy focus, in which there was need for services to be broadened and improved at the local level.
“It is expected that the fairs will go a far way in addressing the poor levels of educational achievement of our nations’ youth,” Mr. Morris said.
He outlined that the development of JASPEV’s Continuing Education programme was in response to data arising from communities across Jamaica, which for example, showed that 37 per cent of the young people had no qualifications; 71 per cent of youth has no higher qualification than basic proficiency at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) level; only 11.4 per cent of all school-aged youth had between one and four CXC subjects, and only one per cent of youth has subjects at the advanced level.
The Greenwich Town community fair and consultation was one in a series of five community fairs organized by JASPEV and HEART TRUST/NTA to promote lifelong learning and provide information on training and educational opportunities for persons within communities across the island.
The fairs are targeted at leaders of local community organizations; out-of-school youth; employed and self-employed youth; those who are interested in continuing their education; young people involved in formal and informal training programmes; youth who are parents; and education and training facilities within neighbouring communities.
The key agencies involved in the events include: Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (formerly JAMAL), Ministry of Education and Youth, Citizens’ Security and Justice Project, HEART Trust/NTA, Parenting Partners, National Council on Drug Abuse, Ministry of Health, National Council on Education, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, Jamaica Library Service and the Social Development Commission.
The inaugural fair was held on July 28 in Palmers Cross, Clarendon, and other events will take place in St. Catherine and Westmoreland on October 6 and 20, respectively.