Western News

New Flanker Skills Training Institute a positive reality

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-Large
WESTERN BUREAU
cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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FLANKER, St James — Twenty-one-year-old Flanker resident Odene Johnson believes that the recent opening of the Flanker Skills Training Institute is going to be a game changer in diverting himself and other residents away from deviant behaviour.

Johnson, a native of another inner-city community in Kingston who says he has heard the barking of guns, seen friends fight and has witnessed a number of criminals acts, is one of the 65 students enrolled at the skills training centre. Johnson along with others were speaking at the recent official launch of the institute.

Currently pursuing a bartending course, Johnson, who has tried his hand at masonry, carpentry, and a technician, is aspiring to become a mixologist.

“I love drinking and mixing liquor and so I see a great career in mixology,” he told the Jamaica Observer West.

He stresses that he is confident that the institute will impact positively on the lives of his fellow students, Flanker, as well as the wider society.

“Most of the students here have it rough, like myself, but the centre gives us hope and an opportunity to learn to do more for ourselves and our families,” he argues.

“Now that we have gotten the chance to acquire more knowledge, at the end of the day we will be able to motivate everybody, get people out of their houses to come here and acquire a skill.”

The Flanker Skills Training Institute, which is the brainchild of Member of Parliament for St James North West and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang and Councillor for the Flanker Division Senator Charles Sinclair, is supported by the HEART Trust/NTA, which has pumped $9 million into the programme.

The board of the institution is chaired by prominent St James businessman Howard Ward.

Approximately 90 per cent of the trainees at the institution are from within the often volatile community. The other 10 per cent are from the surrounding communities of Norwood, Barrett Town, Mount Salem, and Salt Spring.

The skill areas being offered at the moment at the institute are bartending, housekeeping and hosting.

All trainees, however, are exposed to communication skills, numeric skills, computer skills, personal development, entrepreneurship, and Spanish.

Plans are also being made to increase its offerings to include landscaping and the operation and maintenance of heavy duty equipment.

According to vice chairman of the board, Christopher Hylton, the institute is also seeking to partner with corporate Jamaica to ensure that the facility expands its offerings to meet the needs of the communities that it serves.

“In order to meet the needs of the community, we are looking at establishing a computer laboratory to train persons in information technology to meet the needs of the BPO sector,” said Hylton, adding that “the institute is desperately in need of a 40-foot container to set up the laboratory.”

Hylton argued that the institute demonstrates that the Flanker community is on the cusp of change.

“I must commend you for taking the bold step in enrolling at the institute. It will impact positively on the community, and I am sure that at the end of your course you will be handsomely rewarded,” he told the trainees.

“We are really going to change the face of the community. We want to build the human capacity in this community; we want to change the negative narrative that has characterised the community over the years, so I urge you to be a part of the transformation.”

For his part, Desmond Brackett, a director of the institute who ministers at a church in the community, told the trainees that they will be “part of the new history in the transformation of the community”.

“We are hoping that it will be the best institution of this kind, and you guys are the transformers. Make this a change in your lives, spread the good news, sell the school, and make Flanker a better place,” he urged.

Flanker, for the most part, in recent years has been a hotbed of criminality.

Senator Sinclair in his remarks commended the Heart Trust/NTA for partnering with the institution in providing the training, as he urged the trainees to “get marketable” in an effort to capitalise on the opportunities that are opening up in several sectors of the economy.

“Students, you will get your rewards,” said Senator Sinclair, as he stressed the importance of acquiring certification from the HEART/ Trust NTA.

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