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
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
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.
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
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.