HEART Trust getting a makeover post merger
The four-way merger to create a super training agency is well under way, but the promise of what the new entity can become is still a work in progress.
Managing Director Dr Janet Dyer is overseeing the full integration of the National Youth Service, Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), and the Apprenticeship Board with the HEART Trust/NTA to make it into the go-to agency for technical talent for Jamaica's employers.
To assist with the design of the emergent agency, HEART Trust has hired consultants from PricewaterhouseCoopers to plan and implement an organisational development review that is meant to identify and shore up areas of weakness, while also eliminating duplications.
"We are currently working with the organisational development consultants to finalise the precise size of the merged entity. Given the mandate to become Jamaica's human-capital development agency, the focus is to ensure that the single entity to emerge operates at optimal efficiency and delivers a high value to all stakeholders and the nation," Dyer said.
The rationalisations will largely affect administrative functions, according to Dyer, who said there are no planned cuts to the training network but did not say how many training centres are currently operational, and whether jobs would be eliminated.
"A key outcome of the merger process is to expand training and certification programmes for more people, especially the most vulnerable in the country. It, therefore, follows that our intent is not to close down training centres, but rather to consolidate operations and to achieve higher level of efficiencies," she told the Financial Gleaner.
The merger was expected to result in enrolment numbers of 89,330, with target certification of 40,736, according to the Jamaica Public Bodies report produced by the Ministry of Finance. The latest version of that report indicates that HEART Trust is currently ahead of those numbers, with an estimated 50,076 certifications at year ending March 2018. Its target this year is 61,330 certifications, as well as 16,484 job placements.
HEART Trust now has an increased focus on specialisations, including training programmes targeted at high-employment industries such as business process outsourcing, tourism
and hospitality, logistics and animation, as well as construction and agriculture.
"As the new business model emerges, a comprehensive slate of benefits are expected to be realised," said Dyer, who was formally appointed managing director in February.
The agency's broad mandate includes stemming the flow of students leaving the secondary school system without moving into further training; reduction in the number of youth who are not educated, employed or trained; decreased unemployment rates for persons with disabilities, and increased national literacy and numeracy rates.
HEART Trust is now a self-funded agency. The merged entity has budgeted $13.2 billion of operational expenditures this year, up from $12 billion at year ending March 2018; while its capital expenditure budget has climbed from $649 million to $828 million, according to the Public Bodies report.
Dyer says the agency's budget is subject to change, as the consolidation programme progresses.
"This is being fine-tuned and subject to change as we work with the OD consultants for the merger. The budget will cover expenses related to right-sizing activities, such as physical infrastructural changes
in buildings and offices for programme expansion, promotion and delivery of new programme offerings, etc," she said.
To effect the merger, the NYS Act was repealed, the HEART Trust Act was amended and JFLL was wound up. Dyer added that "administratively and operationally", the four entities have been merged.
Since April 2017, the finance, procurement and HR management systems of all the entities have been consolidated, and a "single contact point" for all service delivery has been implemented, she said.
Initially, the merged entity was expected to maintain staffing levels of 2,288, but the current version of the Jamaica Public Bodies report says staffing was around 1,822 and would be maintained at that level this fiscal year.
Dyer, however, would not comment on the current workforce ahead of the organisational review.
"We are about to conclude an in-depth rationalisation of all programmes offered by the entities, which are all being calibrated to fulfil the mandate of human capital development. For example, we are seeking to repackage and deliver all our apprenticeship-type programmes under the National Service Corps," said the executive director.
"Our well-known TVET programmes will be delivered through institutional and on-the-job training. Literacy and numeracy programmes will be delivered through a High School Diploma Equivalency and a HSDE-tech version," she said.