EU Sugar Transformation | Skills-training centre providing hope in Crooked River, Clarendon
Located in northern Clarendon, Crooked River is a rural district where farming is the main occupation, with several residents relocating in search of other job options.
An effort to improve the employment options for residents was launched when the Crooked River/Braes River Skills Training Centre was built in 2015 with grant funding from the Japanese Government.
The centre was designed to transform lives, young lives in particular, offering skills training in three areas - bartending, apiculture, and general beauty therapy/cosmetology.
Approved and accredited by the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET), the courses, offered by the HEART Trust/ NTA were considered a fillip for the residents of Crooked River and neighbouring districts.
It meant that residents would no longer have to travel to the capital town of May Pen, or the neighbouring parish of St Catherine to access skills training.
However, the centre did not take off in the manner anticipated, at least not until the Sugar Transformation Unit, in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, with the assistance of the European Union (EU) answered the call for further assistance.
The funding of $7 million provided by the EU helped the centre to obtain much-needed furnishings and equipment, including protective gear and specialised items for the apiculture department.
The mixology module of the bartending course has proved to be very popular with trainees who really get a chance to experiment and showcase their creativity.
it also trains persons for employment in the hotel and food industries, and Elizabeth Jaggan, coordinator for the centre, believes this the main reason for the almost equal mix of men and women opting for this course.
Not surprisingly, more women gravitated to the general beauty therapy/cosmetology course, which runs for 17 months, compared to nine months for the other two.
According to Jaggan, this course takes longer because of the wide range of skill areas covered.
But Jaggan expressed concern that too many trainees fail to complete this course as they leave to take up job offers after having acquired a basic knowledge.
SAFE AND VIABLE
The fear of being stung by bees causes most women and some men to shy away from the apiculture course, but Jaggan pointed out that with the protective gear and proper equipment used in training, it is a safe and economically viable option.
"Honey is in high demand and so persons would do well to be educated about apiculture and the vast earning potential it offers," said Jaggan.
Bartending trainees undertake two weeks of work study during the middle of the course, and then go on work experience at hotels on the island's north coast, near the end of training.
The first is to provide them with exposure and some real-world experience, while the latter is where they really get a chance to refine their skills and prove their on-the-job readiness to potential employees.
It is this area of training which offers students the most opportunities for networking well beyond the boundaries of their community, and the much-needed practical job experience.
The bar at the training centre, which was built, furnished and equipped with funding from the EU, provides a practical work setting, similar to what the graduates are likely to find employment.
With registration fee at an affordable $5,000 and most of the training material provided by the centre, through a subvention from the HEART Trust/NTA, the Crooked River/Braes River Skills Training Centre is providing affordable and marketable employment training in practical areas.
"Most persons are grateful that it is here. A lot of the students went to high school but did not graduate with the sufficient qualifications, so they are thankful that the institution is here and we can accommodate them in an affordable professional setting with prepares them for the world.
"We are providing that potentially life-changing opportunity for youngsters who are interested in getting ahead," added Jaggan.