MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The Mandeville Seventh-Day Adventist Church has received kudos for its role in human development and training through its Adventist Resource Centre (ARC).
Denworth Finnikin, a director of the training agency HEART Trust; Peter Bunting, the national security minister; and Audley Shaw, a former finance minister, all hailed the ARC initiative at a recent dedication service.
Finnikin commended the church for "its great start" in helping to fix the current deficiencies in the labour market and pledged the "full" commitment of his organisation in helping people at the centre to be certified.
As explained by Adventist pastor Greg Baldeo, the ARC, which operates on the Mandeville Seventh-Day Adventist Church compound, currently caters to more than 200 students, the majority being non-Adventist. He said the aim was to help those in need to find their feet and support themselves.
"ARC seeks to take care of the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of individuals," Baldeo said.
"(It) encapsulates an educational programme offering nine CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) subjects... It has a skills training component offering free sewing classes... [There is a] food bank, clothing bank, a health room, a fully functional dental chair...
"We will have lunchtime soup kitchen, professional counselling to victims of domestic violence, family problems, and suicidal tendencies, just to name a few...," he said.
Baldeo said that for Jamaica to grow, the society must encourage its people to be self-sufficient.
"We (ARC) are not giving people a free ride. We are helping individuals to drive themselves. This is one of the many things that the church is doing," he said.
Shaw, who is member of parliament for North East Manchester, commended the Mandeville Seventh-Day Adventist Church's leadership for taking time to develop productive human beings along with its core thrust of spreading the Christian gospel.
He suggested that initiatives such as ARC could help boost employment and reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.
"... the church as an institution will take examples from what you are doing [and] other institutions across Jamaica. If we do that and we put our hands together we can lift so many more of our children, our young people who are now officially listed by the State as being unattached," said Shaw, who was finance minister in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration which lost political power in the December 2011 general election.
"We have a long way to go, but we can get there with more examples like this," he added.
Bunting -- whose Central Manchester constituency embraces Mandeville, home of the Adventist Resource Centre -- said that he was "moved and inspired" after listening to testimonials from two adult beneficiaries. He was referring to first-time CSEC student Marsha Lee-Crawford who got a grade 1 in English Language, and Joan Powell who, though visually impaired, was successful in three CSEC subjects through ARC.
"I don't think you are an example purely for persons who may need the services of (the) ARC but, indeed, for all of us... including those of us who may be in leadership positions. It encourages us and tells us that there is hope, and don't despair even when you think you have come to the end of the road," Bunting said.
Finnikin told his audience that the HEART Trust/NTA was in support of training projects and programmes aimed at satisfying the demands of the labour market. He encouraged his listeners to retool their skill sets.
"We want people here in the central part of the island to be ready to be employed in the business process outsourcing industry, the knowledge process (industry) like digital animation," said Finnikin.
He said that the National Training Agency (NTA) had set a 2016 target to have 30 per cent more of the workforce trained and certified to international standards in order to increase productivity.
"...the fact is, 77 per cent of our labour force is untrained and uncertified in the jobs that they are doing now. By 2016, we want to move from 23 per cent (of those trained and certified) to 30 per cent and this is a revised target down from 50 per cent. We lag behind our Caribbean neighbours in terms of productivity because we have too many workers working without the requisite training... If we are going to move from the 5,500 GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita we'll have to have the workforce being more productive," he said.