Managing director at HEART/NSTA Trust Dr Taneisha Ingleton is confident that the entity is in a position to absorb loss of revenue and increase in applications under the new programme that Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced last Thursday.
During his 2023/2024 budget debate presentation, Holness announced that the HEART/NSTA Trust will remove all tuition and administrative fees for its programmes up to the associate degree level by April 1.
Holness also said this is in furtherance of the trust's policy directive to increase the size of Jamaica's trained labour force.
On Monday, Ingleton told the Jamaica Observer that based on the announcement, the entity will be expecting $58.7 million reduction in institutional income.
"We are able to absorb those costs and that is absolutely no challenge for us at this time. What is important for us is that the young people and individuals who may want to change their careers understand that there is absolutely no barrier," she said.
"I really need the public to see how important this is. We are ranked 36 of 141 countries in terms of the quality of our technical vocational educational training, so with this barrier of fees being removed, Jamaicans now have an opportunity to be even better ranked because we will have a country that will have access to technical vocational education training across every household," she added.
Pointing to an expected increase in enrolment numbers, Ingleton said the entity should see about 30 to 50 per cent uptick from the 117,000 enrolment target set for the 2023/2024 academic year.
"We are able to say that based on the number of calls we have been getting, the visits to our website, and the fact that our Facebook page would have grown exponentially," said Ingleton.
"We also saw a ballooning of followers on our Instagram page and we are seeing a lot of visits to our LinkedIn page, since the announcement. So, we are able to move things into gear in our organisation to accommodate that spike in numbers," she added.
In the meantime, she said while she is encouraging Jamaicans to take advantage of the opportunity to get enrolled in all courses being offered, there is a specific appeal for interest in the construction programme.
"Certainly, we are opened to whatever it is that the public wants, but in terms of the construction sector, we are doing quite a lot of work in that regard and so we encourage individuals to upskill themselves in that area. If you look around, you see that quite a number of buildings are being erected and you may have mason skills in construction and you may want to sharpen those skills and we have those opportunities here for you — the tiling, the carpentry, the masonry, the plumbing, the electrical installations — all of that is available," she said.
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