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Work for idle hands - Simpson Miller says construction boom ahead

Published:Tuesday | November 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Jermaine Braithwaite (left), a YUTE participant, affixes his signature as a witness to a memorandum of understanding which was yesterday signed between the Government and YUTE at Jamaica House. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (centre), Easton Douglas (right), chairman of National Housing Trust, and Lisa Hanna, minister of youth and culture, look on. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is urging young Jamaicans to take advantage of an expected growth in the construction industry.

"Investor confidence and interest in the construction sector is showing encouraging signs," the prime minister said yesterday.

"A number of potential investors, including some from overseas, have been approaching the National Housing Trust (NHT), with a view to contributing to the provision of housing for the Jamaican people," she added.

Simpson Miller was speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Jamaica and the Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE) project.

YUTE Build is an offshoot of the wider YUTE project, which was conceptualised by the private sector in the aftermath of the Tivoli incursion of 2010.

The $10 million for YUTE Build is funded by the NHT. Participants will be trained in several aspects of housing construction.

"It will provide our youth with construction experience so they can take advantage of the opportunities in this important industry," Simpson Miller said.

"We have to get the construction sector back on the growth path and as a top performer when it comes to employment and contribution to economic growth," the prime minister said.

Simpson Miller said the project was the fulfilment of part of the Government's mandate to introduce a skills-training programme geared toward the construction sector.

She said it would "give idle hands work to do" and "put food on the table" of the participants.

The goal is to get 40 youth, who will be chosen from NHT housing projects islandwide. The pilot phase will target youth from Kingston's inner cities. The HEART Trust/NTA will carry out the training and certification. The training is scheduled to start in January 2013, and the programme is expected to last nine months.

There is an avenue for participant placement within the Incorporated Master Builders Association (IMAJ), Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme contractors and the NHT. There is also a component for internships, where the participants will receive a stipend.

Stakeholders hope graduates of the YUTE Build programme will become contractors themselves and employ young people in return.

potential for growth

Gentle Wallace, a member of the IMAJ executive, said the construction industry always has the potential for growth, but challenges, particularly financial constraints, have hindered projects.

"This is something they can be successful in with the proper attitude, approach and education," Wallace said.

A qualitative study from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in 2009, showed employers in the construction sector at that time were mostly asking for unskilled workers, as well as masons and carpenters.

More recent data also points to shortages in some home construction-related jobs. According to HEART's Manpower Supply Gap Analysis 2011-2012, there was demand in 2012 for roofers; floor layers/tile setters; carpenters/joiners, and building construction labourers.

There was surplus manpower in other jobs including plumbers/ pipe fitters, bricklayers and stone masons.