MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that a priority going forward must be for Jamaica to train enough people for export.
"I believe it is now time that we take a more deliberate and planned approach to the training of labour for our local market and for countries who require our trained labour," he said.
He added that "Jamaica is a free society" and his Government would not attempt to limit the movement of people to 'greener pastures' overseas.
"…Our labour is free to move into countries that accept them and want them and our labour must always try to get the best return for their efforts and we are not going to try in any way to limit that," Holness said during his address at the official opening of the St John Bosco vocational training centre at Hatfield, Manchester, last Wednesday.
"We do want our labour to exercise their efforts in Jamaica and be rewarded in Jamaica, but our history and the nature of our economy and the market forces are such that our labour will leave and go overseas, but you know the Jamaican family as we have created this diaspora will only get stronger," he added.
Holness' comments follow widespread debate on the migration of teachers, nurses, among other professionals seeking opportunities overseas.
The St John Bosco vocational training centre, founded and operated by the Sisters of Mercy, benefited from a US$240,000 donation from the Digicel Foundation towards the renovation of its main building. The centre has been named in honour of Sisters of Mercy's Area Coordinator Susan Frazer.
Holness said Jamaica has sufficient institutions to train for both local demand and export markets. He said the country has participated in planned migration schemes for workers.
"I am not going to be talking about the farm work programme that requires another presentation, except to say that the Government takes very seriously any complaints about abuse regarding any Jamaican anywhere in the world, we take it very seriously and we have a duty and obligation to investigate where such complaints are made," he said in reference to recent complaints of poor working conditions by Jamaican farm workers in Canada.
"When we plan the use of our labour resources we can satisfy our local demand and give opportunities for persons who would want to work overseas which eventually becomes a foreign exchange earner for us," he added.
Holness commended the Sisters of Mercy for transitioning the use of St Johns Bosco to meet the training demand of growing industries.
"What you have done is to change your service to be able to match the needs of the segment of the population that needs your service the most. The Government is very happy that your new endeavour will be focusing on technical and vocational training," he said.
The prime minister added that some institutions that have not transitioned "are just consuming resources".
"Institutions, if they don't change they become irrelevant and they die… Some of them still exist with buildings, people and systems, but they are not fulfilling their purpose. They are just consuming resources and not delivering anything," he said.
"… It is important that institutions pay attention to their environment and are always flexible and agile in responding to change," he added.
St John Bosco has partnered with the Ministry of Education, Heart/NSTA Trust and City and Guilds in offering certified programmes in food preparation, culinary arts, contact centre services, customer service, barbering, meat cutting and processing among other programmes to vulnerable young people.
Holness said the skills are vital to the quick service industry, business process outsourcing, hotel and hospitality industries.
"They are skills that are required in these expanding service areas, so today it's a great day for the St John Bosco centre, but it is also a great day for Jamaica," he said.
Holness said there needs to be more centres targeting skills training of vulnerable young people.
"I am standing here today saying I need more John Boscos to be training and reaching out to those young minds who are being pulled into gangs and criminal activities where their skill that they are honing is to pull the trigger to be hitmen and gangsters. We need to pull them out of that," he said.