Sun | Feb 16, 2020

Growth & Jobs | Getting to the HEART of Jamaica’s labour force

Published:Tuesday | May 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Wayne Henry
The state agency, HEART Trust/NTA, is a key part of the strategy to provide training for Jamaicans.
Agribusiness is among the shortlist of the fastest growing sectors in need of workers.

Jamaica is taking active steps to ensure its labour force is highly trained as part of its growth agenda.

The state agency, HEART Trust/NTA, is a key part of the strategy to provide training for Jamaicans.

As at January, the agency had more than 77,000 persons in training, specifically targeting existing and emerging labour market trends. The agency is to have in excess of 100,000 persons trained by the end of the year.

Multiple sectors stand to benefit from this pool of trained workers, a powerful aid to the country's growth agenda. The business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, the fastest-growing in the country in terms of job creation, will be one of the primary beneficiaries.

Dr Wayne Henry, director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), noting that the BPO is part of the global shared services sector, confirmed that it has strong growth potential here.


Global impact


Speaking at an April labour market forum in Kingston, he said: "One area in which the impact of global shared services has been most evident in Jamaica is the marked growth in the labour force, which has been partly attributed to growth in the real estate, renting and business activities industry and, by extension, the positive performance of the business process outsourcing sector in Jamaica."

The PIOJ director general added: "We are particularly optimistic about the potential impact this positive performance can have on reducing youth employment in Jamaica, as the domestic BPO sector has demonstrated a strong inclination to hire persons in this age cohort.

"We are heartened by data from the October 2017 Labour Force Survey conducted by STATIN which revealed that unemployment as at October 2017 was 10.4 per cent, the lowest rate recorded in 10 years, that is, since October 2008, and the youth unemployment rate declined by 7.0 percentage points to 25.4 per cent relative to October 2016, representing the lowest rate recorded since January 2009."

He told his audience that the Government is committed to the implementation of active labour market programmes and policies, augmented by support from local stakeholders and international development partners.

... Areas in greatest need of skilled workers

What exactly are the emerging trends or the areas that are short of trained workers in Jamaica's labour force? Responding to questions from The Gleaner, the HEART Trust, which has been merged with the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), National Youth Service (NYS) and the Apprenticeship Board, identified the following as among the areas/skills in greatest need:

- Supervisors and managers for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector

- Biomedical equipment maintenance technician

- Computer repair technicians

- Computer software engineers

- Animation

- Content creators

- Data analysts

- Engineers

- Housekeepers

- Heavy-duty mechanics

- Biostatisticians

- Bioinformatics scientist

- Biotechnologists

- Radiographers

- Registered nurses

- Solar panel designers/ installers

- Climate change analysts

- Virtual assistants

- Virtual-reality developers.

"The HEART Trust/NTA is well positioned to respond to the labour market requirements," emphasised the agency in written responses to The Gleaner.

"The Trust has a formal methodology for the alignment of projected programmes/skill areas to labour market needs. This outlines in detail, occupational areas of labour-market demand, emerging areas and areas in surplus."

Justifying the accuracy of its analysis of the labour market forecast, the agency said that intelligence to support its findings came from various primary sources, including sector studies, tracer studies, skills demand surveys; and secondary sources that include investment data from JAMPRO, the national labour force survey and work permit data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, in addition to international scholarly articles.

According to the HEART Trust/NTA, its merger with three other entities "has facilitated an even broader range of opportunities for human-capital development," pointing out that it has created increased opportunities and access points to deliver current and projected labour market demand programmes.

The training agency said it places special focus on the youth cohort aged 18-24, particularly those who are currently not working and are out of school.

"Equipping these young people with the requisite transdisciplinary skills (including employability skills such as communication, teamwork and critical thinking) is also an important component of meeting the needs of the labour market," it added.

In the meantime, the PIOJ director general emphasised that "a labour market characterised by efficiency, equity, growth, and social justice will be a critical component in making Jamaica the place of choice, to live, work, raise families and do business".


Shortlist of the fastest-growing sectors in need of workers:

- Animation

- Agribusiness

- Business Process Outsourcing

- Construction

- Energy

- Information and Communication Technology

- Logistics

- Manufacturing

- Tourism

- Wholesale and retail

- Repair of motor vehicles and equipment