Want a job at JISCo Alpart?

... Then get trained, St Elizabeth residents told

Monday, August 27, 2018

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Nain, St Elizabeth — As Jiquan Iron and Steel Company, (JISCo), Chinese owners of the Alpart alumina refinery gears into expansion mode, there are increasing calls for appropriate training which will allow locals to fill job openings.

The latest such appeal came recently from chairman of the Alpart Community Council Len Blake at an annual back-to-school awards ceremony.

Responding to a pledge from Zhang Zun, managing director of JISCo Alpart Jamaica, that the company remained committed to expansion of alumina production and the development of a related industrial zone, Blake said there was need to utilise the services of the State-run HEART Trust National Training Agency to train young people.

“All I am saying is that the communities around Alpart should get themselves prepared, and therefore my challenge to everybody is to encourage the youngsters to go to HEART and be trained,” said Blake, who is a former Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Eastern.

Blake charged that, “If when the time come they (JISCo Alpart) are not able to find [skilled workers] from around here… the people (workers) will be coming from outside…”

Said Blake: “Let us put a programme together to work with HEART to train people towards the investment that Mr Zhan spoke about, because it is coming… he has said it on numerous occasions and therefore we need to get ourselves together…”

Alpart was shut down in 2009 as a consequence of the global economic crisis at the time. The plant reopened and resumed alumina production last year following its acquisition by JISCo from Russian aluminium giant US Rusal.

JISCo has plans to upgrade the current alumina refinery from a 1.65-million-tonne capacity to two-million-tones; construct an additional three-million-tonne alumina plant at Nain; build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant, replacing an ageing oil-based power system; develop an industrial park and economic zone producing aluminium foil and other light metal products; upgrade Port Kaiser — located close to Alligator Pond on the south-east St Elizabeth/south Manchester border — to accommodate ships with a carrying capacity of up to 100,000 tonnes.

Should it all come to pass, the JISCo investment will be worth billions of dollars. Industry, Commerce and Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw said recently that employment from the anticipated JISCo projects at Nain could reach 30,000. Currently about 1,000 people are employed at JISCo Alpart.

A significant number of former Alpart workers migrated after the closure of the plant nine years ago, and there have been complaints from executives at the refinery about a shortage of skills. Earlier this year JISCo sent scores of university-trained engineers to China for additional training.

At the back-to-school awards ceremony held at the Alpart Sports Club officials of the Alpart Community Council's business unit, Essex Valley Community & Associates (EVC) and JISCo Alpart announced that $13 million in grants was being awarded to 1,800 students in Alpart's operating areas. The beneficiaries include high achievers preparing to enter high school for the new academic year.

Speakers at the function including Senior Education Officer Dr Lennox Rowe, who delivered the keynote address; and political representatives Frank Witter, Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Eastern; and Michael Stewart, MP for Manchester Southern — urged students to work hard to realise their dreams.

“Don't let anyone tell you that you can't,” Rowe told dozens of students at the function.

Against a backdrop of complaints from residents in communities close to Alpart about the negative effects of refining pollutants, Witter called for tolerance and understanding. The MP said he was aware that JISCo Alpart was striving to become more environmentally friendly in its operations. In that respect, the planned use of LNG to replace the oil-based power plant would be a step in the right direction, Witter said.

— Garfield Myers

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