D & G Foundation Learning for Life programme to train 1,500
The first cohort of the Portmore Learning for Life bartending programme pose for a group photo during their first class held at the Marine Park Community Centre in Braeton, St Catherine. The Learning for Life programme is a partnership between the Desnoes & Geddes Foundation and the HEART/NSTA Trust.

THE Desnoes & Geddes (D&G) Foundation has extended its partnership with the HEART/NSTA Trust to deliver bartending, customer service and merchandising training to 1,500 unattached youth through the Learning for Life (L4L) Programme this year.

Trainees will also benefit from paid short-term employment under the internship element of the programme.

Since L4L first launched in 2008, approximately 16,000 Jamaicans have received skills and capacity-building training. The programme provides a second chance for unattached and vulnerable young adults between 18 and 35 years old, imparting skills used in the hospitality, retail, enterprise, bartending, and agriculture sectors that can stimulate income-generating opportunities and first-time employment. Learning for Life also teaches soft skills like financial literacy, professional comportment, and communication skills.

According to D&G Foundation accountant Dennis Beckford, "Merchandising, customer service and bartending are among the most in-demand skills right now in the hospitality industry. By coupling lessons in these areas with soft skills like budgeting and other interpersonal skills, we are preparing the students to transition smoothly into the world of work. This year we are targeting at least 100 persons from each parish to receive training. As a result of our partnership with HEART we have already seen high attendance levels in our classrooms."

One location with an exceptionally high uptake for the programme is Portmore, St Catherine. The bartending programme, which convenes weekly at the Marine Park Community Centre in Braeton, already has over 20 students. Several of the trainees have expressed a desire to pursue jobs in the hospitality industry and on cruise ships, or to open their own establishments.

Entrepreneur Zavaughn Cheeke, 23, from Dunbeholden started practising drink mixes at home in his spare time and decided to join the programme to gain formal training to kick-start his career in the cruise industry.

"I know that cruise ships have an active recruitment drive in Jamaica and the Caribbean; I am preparing myself to one day take advantage of that opportunity. This is my second week in the programme. In week one we learned about career advancement and how to prepare yourself for the world of work. We learned how to prepare our resume and change it depending on the job we're applying form and how to operate in a professional environment. I am looking forward to learning financial skills this week because that is knowledge that everyone needs to learn. My ultimate goal is to start a bar and lounge," said Cheeke.

"HEART's role in this partnership is to reach out and make contact with potential students for the programme and use our employment training structure to facilitate Red Stripe's lessons," shared HEART National Service Core Programme (NSCP) empowerment officer Duane Isaacs.

He continued, "The ultimate objective is to have students engaged, trained, interned, and ultimately employed and able to make a meaningful contribution to society and the economy. So far, students have been excited and, more importantly, involved. Word has spread, and we're getting a lot of interest from new students who want to join. We have already started gathering people for a second group. This is a promising sign."

Desnoes & Geddes Foundation accountant Dennis Beckford engages Learning for Life bartending programme students during a lecture on financial literacy, professional comportment, and communication skills for the workplace. The training session was held at the Marine Park Community Centre in Braeton, St Catherine.

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