MALDON, St James - Armed with a HEART/NTA certificate, 22-year-old Hanna-Lee Barrett was among the130 young persons who left the Maldon Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon equipped with the requisite skills in Information Communication Technology, ready to make her mark in the workplace.
The graduation ceremony marked the official closing of the St James Youth Training and Job Placement Project which was funded by a $37million grant through the European Union (EU) Banana Support Programme (EUBSP).
During the project the youngsters sharpened their skills in an extensive five-week training programme in ICT, which was developed by Community Training for Empowerment Programme (CTEP) and supported, both by South St James Member of Parliament Derrick Kellier and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).
Training was facilitated by HEART/NTA and job placement by Global Gateway Solutions Inc (GGS).
Under the initiative, which commenced over a year ago, five batches of students were trained at the old Texas College in Maldon, simultaneously with another five batches at the Youth Development Centre in Cambridge, both in the parish of St James.
Additionally, the students received specific ICT training at Global Gateway Solutions Inc., located in Montego Bay, which employed persons competently trained. In total, 270 persons, including 140 individuals who already met the basic qualifications and participated in an internship programme at GGS, have been employed by the company, under the programme.
Meanwhile, an ecstatic Barrett, speaking to the Observer West following Tuesday's graduation recounted that despite several attempts since graduating from the Cambridge High School in 2001, she has only being able to secure temporary employment once, and that was when "someone went on leave".
But, thanks to the training and job placement project, she will be stepping into a job at the Global Gateway Solutions Inc., next week.
" This programme has given me more hope, more experience. I am now guaranteed a position, and not just filling in for someone this time," quipped the mother a of a two-year-old child.
She added: "After leaving school I applied to different places but they would just give an interview and put me on hold for a very long period. But with this programme, it is different because after you are trained they ensure that you get a job," Barrett remarked, sporting a broad smile.
A resident of Norwood Meadows in St James, Barrett said she participated in the programme after being introduced by a friend.
"I went ahead because I said it was better than staying home not doing anything, so I went to enhance my knowledge in customer service skills," said explained.
Odeisha Beckford, another of the graduates, who hails from Vaughnsfield in the Southern section of St James, was also elated over the programme.
"It is good for youths to be given the opportunity to prepare for the world of work. I was trained in the field of computer. I expect to get a job soon and even if I don't get work at Global (Gateway Solutions Inc), it will help me to get work in other IT companies," the Montego Bay High past student told the Observer West.
The project was developed as part of the EU's response to shielding residents in banana dependent areas from the negative impact of the downturn in that sector. The ICT sector was identified by the PSOJ as one that is in need of human resource development.
"We were no longer able to ship bananas from here to Europe and it led to a serious fallout of economic activity in the constituency and indeed in the parish of St James. So there was really a gap to fill and we decided that we would use all our best efforts to try and find a way out of this serious problem," Kellier said during Tuesday's graduation exercise.
Aspects of the project included:
*Heart Trust/NTA training and certification of beneficiaries in basic ICT skills;
* a two- month internship programme with GGS, and
* permanent job placements for beneficiaries, who met all the requirements stipulated by GGS.
Head of Delegation of the EU to Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei, noted that the training programme meets the need for certified professionals on the part of the ICT sector and provides viable employment opportunities in the communities of rural St James.
"A scheme like this one, catering mostly for youth and women, and fostering the advancement of Jamaica's human resources is one that I must say I find personally gratifying. Through social development programmes like this one, young persons can be given a sense of hope in the face of economic adversity. Such a sense of hope will be critical, especially in St James as the parish moves to combat its level of youth unemployment," Amadei argued.
And Mark Jones, Chairman of Global Gateway Solutions Inc. was delighted about his firm's involvement in the project .
" Global Gateway was a sponsoring associate partners so we both made a financial investment in the programme, and we ultimately provided employment for the successful graduates. So we were the recipient of some talented people and we had the opportunity to have some of the training cost offset through the EU grant," Jones explained.