New era coming for skills training

Ken Chaplin

Tuesday, May 11, 2010    

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The HEART Trust-NTA is repositioning itself to offer better and more skills training opportunities to young Jamaicans under its new Strategic Plan. The Plan includes a number of initiatives that are considered important to workplace development and positioning to compete globally in the 21st century. The Strategic Plan for 2010 replaces the previous plan which ended in March this year and will ensure career development at all levels of the training system.

In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the institution is expected to train 86,650 students in 400 occupational certified areas spanning all sections of the economy, including software development, agro-processing, construction, promoting of small business development, hospitality, automotive mechanics and cosmetology. The highest level of training in the hospitality field is the executive chef programme under an agreement with the Culinary Institute of America. Last year 78,586 students graduated from local HEART Trust-NTA training facilities.

"The institution recognises the need for skills in every area and occupation", says Dr Carolyn Gayle, executive director of HEART Trust-NTA. People should realise that knowledge gives them power and be prepared to acquire knowledge, she adds. Dr Gayle is not a newcomer to the institution. She served as national programme director for two years before leaving to study overseas. She returned to the institution last November with a lot of ideas and energy.

HEART Trust-NTA's thrust to lift Jamaica's young people to new productive and social heights is based on three programmes. The first is to reach out to youth who are at risk in communities across the country, especially those living in inner cities and rural townships and villages. One of the biggest problems facing the country is the large number of young people seen idling at street corners, townships and village squares when they should be preparing to make a contribution to national development and improve their standard of living. Instead, they are faced with poverty and some often resort to crime. Others become parents at an early age. These are described as at-risk and unattached youth. They are between the ages of 14 and 24. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, there are 127,600 unattached youth in this age group. Usually HEART Trust-NTA accepts only those who are at the Grade 9 level, so the at-risk youth are left out of training.

A new approach to the problem has been developed by HEART Trust-NTA. The youth at risk are invited to meet with the institution where they are interviewed to find out their educational level, establish what their interests and aptitude are and set them on the path to training. They will be given a stipend for transportation and lunch. Working with HEART Trust-NTA in the programme will be the Social Development Commission, the United Nations Development Programme, the Organisation of American States, The Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, National Youth Service and the Justice Programme.

The second programme which will be introduced is the Career Development Programme (CAP) in secondary schools which is an extension of grades 12 and 13 where students will learn HEART Trust-NTA courses levels 1 and 2, combined with the previous rationalisation of the Technical and Vocational, Education and Training (TVET) Project, alongside traditional academic courses. As part of the strategy to rationalise schooling and training, government intends to pass a law that children should stay in school until they are 18. There will be three types of 6th forms: the traditional 6th form; 6th form technical and 6th form general. Sixth form traditional will be for regular 6th form students where students attend courses from the Caribbean Secondary Educaton Certificate (CSEC) level. Sixth form technical will be what obtains now at technical high schools and 6th form general will be for students who did not pass sufficient subjects at the CSEC level in 5th form.

The implementation will facilitate students going to traditional high school classes from Monday to Wednesday, and from Thursday to Friday they will do CAP courses. A CAP pilot programme will be launched this year in 10 selected schools. Dr Hayle says that the CAP programme means that all students will not only get academic training but also skill certification which will increase their employability.

The third important development in training will be the creation of workplace colleges which will serve as finishing schools for many young people. This will include Grade 9 and levels one through seven. Even university students will be given the opportunity to register to acquire on-the-spot training. Currently, there are 19 HEART Trust-NTA academies, 16 vocational training centres and 100 community-based training centres. Three of these institutions will be rebranded within a two to three-month time period. The aim of the rebranding is to create and maintain standards. For example, Runaway Bay Hotel will be rebranded a boutique hotel with a name to suit its new positioning. It will also be more a commercial business centre rather than a training institute. The training will be done mostly at vocational training centres. The hotel will have interns but no training. Workplace colleges will also teach and train people who were unable to go to 6th form.

There will also be multi-user institutions to teach those who cannot read and need more CSEC subjects to advance. Workplace colleges will be arranged in clusters so that a more efficient and economic use can be made of them. It is proposed to open the colleges in the evening as incubators for small business people who cannot afford to buy equipment. They will be able to bring material to the plants in the workplace, work on it under expert guidance and then market the finished goods.

Every available space will be taken in training institutions, and trainees will be directed to community-based programmes near their homes. This is in keeping with the philosophy of Minister of Education Andrew Holness that there must be efficient use of the training dollar. Every high school in September this year must be attached to some sort of training programme and community service for people between the ages of 16 and 20, primarily those in the formal school system. This new development in training will empower young people and lift their standard of living. It is education and training that is going to take this nation and its people forward.





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