Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
BROWN'S TOWN Community College has established a truck-driving school that will be located in Lydford, St Ann, further stretching the institution's campuses to four locations across the parish. More important, the driving school represents a shift from the traditional academics-filled offerings of tertiary institutions to what Walsh said is the practice of community college models in North America which primarily offer training in skilled occupations.
"The community college is a model drawn from North America, United States and Canada, and in those countries a community college, a major part of the work is workforce development, training people for skilled occupation, so what we are doing by doing this is moving into the mainstream of community college practice, becoming more community college-like."
While the school will begin operating in May with the process of upgrading drivers to the standard required to work in Canada, it will not be officially operational until September.
Said Walsh: "We're looking at about 52 persons per year. If the demand is there and we can get additional trucks and, very importantly, additional trainers then we may be able to double the output. The Canadians are looking at about 300 per year from Jamaica, which means if we're losing 300 per year, we need to replace them."
Overall, Canada needs in the region of about 30,000 drivers per year.
Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, in whose constituency the school is to be based, welcomed the news.
"It feels great for me as member of parliament that it's coming, also as minister of youth and culture," she said. We've been looking for so many training opportunities and developing different ones in different areas and this is something I'm very pleased about, our young people now have a different trajectory they can follow ... I think it's an amazing opportunity, and I am so pleased it has started in parish of St Ann and in my constituency."
Speaking at the handover, Labour Minister Derrick Kellier hailed the training programme, saying it is beneficial to both Jamaica and Canada. Jamaicans already driving in Canada came in for high praise from Canadian employees at the ceremony. In fact, it has been the performance of the first set of Jamaicans who went last year that has compelled the Canadians to not just return for more drivers, but to invest in their training.