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Learning for Life Programme 'working' wonders

Red Stripe says 70% of graduates receive some form of employment

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor -- special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2014    

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BREWING company Red Stripe says approximately 70 per cent of the 10,000 graduates trained through its Learning for Life Programme have gained temporary or permanent employment.

Head of corporate relations at Red Stripe, Dianne Ashton-Smith, said the programme -- which offers graduates a statement of competence through HEART Trust/NTA in bartending, retail, hospitality, entrepreneurship and other skills -- give the participants an opportunity to become active and respected members of their communities.

"We measure it (employment rate) through first-time employment or through an internship. So, for some of them, it might not be a consistent employment, but we have been able to get a number of them placed through internships and through partnership with other corporate entities," she explained.

Ashton-Smith was among a group of Red Stripe representatives and graduates of the Learning for Life Programme addressing the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange forum of reporters and editors at the newspaper's head offices in Kingston.

Learning for Life is a skills training programme designed to inspire and transform the lives of people throughout the different communities in which Red Stripe/Diageo conducts business.

The programme, which began in 2008, is implemented in partnership with a number of institutions, including the Institute for Workforce and Development, HEART Trust /NTA and Bars to Go Training Academy.

Ashton-Smith explained that at least 10 per cent of its graduates have since started their own small businesses.

Although the programme does not provide participants with start-up capital, she said the programme helps to put them in touch with the appropriate funding institutions. The programme also helps beneficiaries to open bank accounts at Jamaica National Building Society, through which they are paid a stipend for the duration of the training. This also paves the way for them to access loans.

Among the successes the programme has produced, Ashton-Smith said, is Rayton Wilson, who now operates his own music studio.

"We are very pleased about that because he was in the Project Artiste programme, where we taught budding musicians, budding performers and persons in the business of music and his real interest has always been in managing artistes, and so he is now a producer producing quite a lot of artistes," she said.

Another success, according to Ashton-Smith, is the partnership which was struck with Carnival Cruise lines which now employs a number of graduates.

"Two years ago Carnival Cruise lines came down to Jamaica, specifically to recruit students strictly from Learning for Life, having heard about the programme. They had stopped coming to Jamaica to recruit, and because they heard of the success of the programme they came down and we were the first country in the history of their recruitment exercise where of the 50 [people] interviewed 30 of them were offered jobs," Ashton-Smith said.

She explained that there are rumblings that the cruise line will soon be making another call on Jamaica to recruit more of its students.

As for its recruitment process, Ashton-Smith said this is done through the Social Development Commission, HEART Trust/NTA and Red Stripe employees.

"Every programme we are about to launch, we send an e-mail out to say if you know of anyone who has an interest, please send your name... they then sit a numeracy and literacy test and, once we have shortlisted those candidates who have passed the bare minimum, then we go through an interviewing process just to make sure they have a passion for the area they have indicated an interest in and that they have an economic need," she said.

According to Ashton-Smith, significantly more females enter the programme than males with a ratio of 60:40 in favour of women for its programmes outside of hospitality.

"We have a lot more females coming through the programme, and they are as much employable as any male. What we share with them when they come into the programme is that their success on a job is five per cent skill and 95 per cent attitude," Ashton-Smith said.

According to Ashton-Smith, the programme has received a number of accolades, both locally and overseas, having received the international Beacon Award for Education and the Jamaica Manufacturing Association community special award.

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