Jamaica Gleaner Online TODAY'S ISSUE
Apr 16, 2000

Stony Hill at the HEART of IT training

Steve Anderson, instructor in IT at the Stony Hill HEART Academy, in discussion with a batch of trainess in the Level 1 secretarial skills training programme. - Contributed photo.

THE STONY Hill HEART Academy was established in 1985 to provide the local business community with skilled professionals such as receptionists, accounting and marketing clerks, and data processing operators.

Then, as now, the need for competent workers in these business support services would strengthen the viability and competitiveness of commerce and industry in Jamaica.

Today, as local, regional and international businesses increasingly rely on a more knowledge-based workforce, the Stony Hill HEART Academy has responded by focusing on the delivery of information technology subjects.

This targeted thrust is part of a broad-range effort by both the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Technology, and the Ministry of Education, to prepare Jamaican workers to operate in a society, and a global economy which is now more driven by IT, than by traditional manufacturing.

"The evolution of the Academy's core curriculum started in the 1980s, at a time when it was becoming increasingly clear that the worker of the future would need to have skills competence in word processing, electronic spreadsheet and the database management," Muffat Townsend, the manager of the Academy explained.

That institution has been successful in transforming its training programme, and is now set to launch its off-site programmes.

Close to 6,000 persons have been successfully completed training programmes at the Stony Hill HEART Academy between 1985 and 1996; and just under 500 have completed short courses and Level 1 training in information technology (IT).

The Academy has a mandate to train an additional 500 persons in IT-related courses for the 2000/2001 financial year.

Mrs. Townsend said that this target figure is achievable because "the school's curriculum is geared chiefly to provide training in IT. And, having a track record helps to instill confidence needed to meet this objective."

Two levels

IT training at the Stony Hill HEART Academy comprise Level 1 and 2 courses, which are approved by the National Council on Technical and Vocational Training and Education (NCTVET). Beginners and Advanced courses in Word, Excel, Windows 98 and Power Point are also provided; and a beginner's course in Computer Literacy.

According to the manager, the IT courses are fully subscribed, with participation from high school students to workers aiming at career enhancement, to retirees seeking personal development.

The Stony Hill HEART Academy will be expanding its role in training for Information Technology, when it launches yet another NCTVET approved computer course, aimed at trained teachers, who need to be more competent in teaching Information Technology at the CXC level.

"So as to encourage the widest participation, the Academy has offer the option of attending the classes on Fridays only, or during the summer, from mid-July to mid-August," Mrs. Townsend explained.

She also disclosed that the next stage in the process of evolution at the Stony Hill HEART Academy will be to provide training for programmers and technicians in computer networking and repairs.

"The Academy is constantly evaluating the trends globally and in the Jamaican market, to determine the most attractive training skills areas that can be offered," Mrs. Townsend said.

"The end-result of this should be a workforce which is more competent in the use of technology, and so can add value to their organisations."

And, while IT remains the primary focus at that institution, other traditional, specialised courses are being, and will continue to be, offered at the Stony Hill HEART Academy, and its outreach centres.

Outreach centre

Level 2 classes in accounting, retail sales and office administration; professional courses in accounting and secretarial skills, and specialised home economics classes, are now being offered at The Queen's School.

It is expected that these courses will be the platform on which the Spanish Town outreach centre will be launched by mid-2000.

The proposed outreach centre in Spanish Town is intended to attract the large number of prospective students living in Bog Walk, Linstead, Ewarton and other rural areas, the Academy manager explained, adding that scale of businesses in and around the town creates a suitable environment for the Academy to provide tailor-made skills training, such as retail sales, personal development and entrepreneurial courses

Through the Government of Jamaica initiatives there is an increasing focus on the relevance of computer-related skills, in economic and social development.

And, the management of the Stony Hill HEART Academy sees that institution as one evolving into being a much bigger and effective provider of training in information technology.

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