Inner-city Entrepreneurs Getting Boost
For Norman Brown, the prospects for starting a business have never been better.
A construction worker from Parade Gardens in central Kingston, he is completing his Level III certification in building construction with the HEART Trust/NTA. Additionally, his participation in a Community Renewal Programme (CRP) over the past year is starting to bear fruit.
"I developed a love for construction when I was in secondary school," the former Kingston Technical High School student said. But he pointed out that "it is hard to make headway in Parade Gardens. The opportunities are limited".
Once a vibrant residential and commercial district before the country gained its independence, Parade Gardens, with a population of some 11,000 residents, has an unemployment rate that was as high as 40 per cent for heads of households in 2014, according to a study on at-risk communities done by the Social Development Commission.
The Community Renewal Programme, which was conceptualised by the Government of Jamaica through the Planning Institute of Jamaica, is a development initiative aimed at reversing the negative socio-economic trends in communities which contribute to their marginalisation. It is implemented by the Environmental Health Foundation (EHF), a private, registered charitable organisation, with the assistance of the Development Bank of Jamaica.
Latoya Foster, manager, social projects and programmes at the EHF, says it focuses on 100 volatile and vulnerable communities in the five parishes most affect by crime. In Parade Gardens, it empowers residents such as Norman through skills training.
"We realised that if we don't implement and support interventions that advance the goal of CRP, these issues would continue," Foster said. The challenge was to boost skills and support formal academic qualifications.
REDUCED ENERGY COSTS
Foster explained that renewable energy via solar panels were installed at the recently constructed community centre to reduce their energy costs. Training partners included the Caribbean Maritime Institute, Heart Trust/NTA and Keys Driving School.
Brown was one of 13 persons trained to get a general driver's licence in the Parade Gardens project, which ran from August 1, 2015 to August 31, 2016.
In addition, a total of 33 persons were also trained in areas such as renewable energy technologies, food preparation and driving.
"I have always wanted to operate my own business," Brown said, "But to advance in this field, you have to own a vehicle and be able to drive it to move people and materials."
He registered immediately in the CRP, when he realised the opportunity it offered, including the bonus of business training.
Jacqueline Shaw-Nicholson, communications and client services manager at JN Small Business Loans, who conducted the entrepreneurship training session, told the residents that "owning your own business is an option you should consider as a means of earning a steady income. It is hard work. However, it can be financially rewarding, especially if you choose the right business and work to make it successful".
She emphasised that in addition to dedication, "research, marketing, and good business management are important principles to understand before starting any business. And a business plan is essential for properly identifying the various areas to be considered and guiding the start up of any business".
"I benefitted greatly from the sessions," stated Brown, adding that "I also learnt how to write a business plan and register a company as well as how to run a business. I am seeking funding to start my company".
Shaw-Nicholson concluded: "A part of our mandate is to encourage business operation as one way of reducing unemployment. We therefore welcome the opportunity to assist persons to identify and start their own businesses, based on their respective skills and initiative."