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Jampro monitoring skills need under new IDB programme

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AN Inter-American Bank (IDB) financed upskilling project, which the Government is putting into operation through its trade and export promotion agency, Jampro, could become the basis for developing human capital and expanding economic opportunity for more young Jamaicans.

This was stated by German-born Dr Birte Timm, the executive assistant/company secretary for the German Ship Repair Jamaica Limited (GSRJ), a joint venture currently based at the former Kingston Dry Docks on the Palisadoes waterfront.

Dr Timm, who was responding to journalists attending this week’s Monday Exchange hosted by the Jamaica Observer at its head office in Kingston, felt that skills training in Jamaica is currently far below the required level. However, she says it could improve immensely through a programme of basic skills training at institutions like the HEART/NTA, followed by a two-year on the job practical training process in areas demanding technical skills.

A guest of a team from Jampro which participated in the exchange, Dr Timm, who has been with GSRJ since its inception in 2016 as part of a joint venture project, has already struck up a partnership with the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to undertake a skills training programme aimed at increasing employment in the logistics and maritime industries.

She explained that the two-year training programme entails theory and apprenticeship components, covering aspects of ship repair and welding.

“This training initiative is stemming from the fact that there is no ship repair industry in Jamaica at present,” she noted.

The closest facilities available are in Curaao and The Bahamas, which primarily attract the cruise vessels, but for the container ships for which Jamaica is one of the main destinations in the region as a trans-shipment port, she believes that there are no skill sets readily available that can handle huge container vessels.

The GSRJ/CMU partnership is now offering welding and will soon add mechanical engineering and machine repair as the next competences, with considerations to be given to painting, refurbishing and carpentry as areas to offer in the future.

She criticised the fact that large numbers of Jamaican students were being trained to become doctors, lawyers and other traditional skills where no jobs were available, while ignoring the technical skills which are in demand.

But, she believes that a boost like the new US$15-million loan agreement with the IDB, which is being co-ordinated by Jampro in a drive to further expand the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, could set the tone for a wider upskilling programme for young Jamaicans to participate in the high valued global services sector.

“We do believe that a good, theoretical education is very important, the on-the-job training cannot be replaced by two short courses for a month or something like that,” she said in analysing current training available for Jamaicans whose interest is in technical skills.

”We believe that in sophisticated technical industries you need to have a skill set development programme, where you develop these skills not only in theory, not only in the classroom, but through grooming an individual by spending two years within a company and having internationally experienced persons beside them to train them,” Dr Timm explained.

Her observations were triggered by discussions on the commencement of the IDB programme this year, which, according to Jampro’s information manager, Shane Angus, has already inspired the need to meet with the various industries to ascertain their needs.

“We do a lot of events, where things are discussed. Last week we had skilled services week in Orlando, where there were actual buyers of shared services were in attendance,” Angus pointed out, noting that Jampro understands that there are areas in which they would not be able to become competitive in, but would be able to fill the needs of local businesses.

According to Marjorie Straw, programme director for skills development for The Global Services project, Jampro would be doing an industry-wide upgrade strategy under the new programme, from which a list of investments would be compiled to form the basis of the training under Global Skills Services (GSS) project.

She said that there will be periodic upgrades of the list, and the upgrading of the list would continue to signal basically the training demand, as well as the curriculum which will be followed.

“The need for that is obvious because in the global sector, the requirements for skills are constantly changing, and we no longer can just have one curriculum that sits down and serve an industry for five years. So the dynamic nature of the industry, along with its operators will ensure that when training is developed it is relevant and current,” she said.

She added that Jampro would continue to work closely with HEART/NTA and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information throughout the five-year life of the new GSS project which will commence with an allocation of $192 million in the 2019/20 budget.

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