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HEART to the rescue - National training agency to inject $75 million into JUTC bus-repair project

Published:Sunday | February 3, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

HEART Trust/NTA will spend $75 million to upgrade its facilities and prepare its auto-mechanic trainees to rehabilitate approximately 130 defunct buses owned by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

This development comes 10 months after Education Minister Ronald Thwaites announced the joint-venture agreement at the opening of a three-day Caribbean conference on Technical Vocational Education and Training in St James.

Cedric McCulloch, acting executive director of the HEART Trust/NTA, told The Sunday Gleaner that the comprehensive repair programme is still in its embryonic stage.

McCulloch said the programme was conceptualised as a cheaper alternative for the previously proposed venture of sending the old buses to Brazil for rehabilitation.

"That programme is in the planning stage. The plan is to operate from the JUTC depot on Lyndhurst Road. JAGAS (Jamaican-German Automotive School) will be in the forefront of the execution of this programme," said McCulloch.

JAGAS is an arm of the HEART Trust/NTA that trains automotive technicians and service personnel.

The bus-rehabilitation programme will include work on engines and transmissions as well as electrical and air-condition repairs.

It will also include welding, fabrication, upholstering and spray-painting works.

The money HEART plans to inject into the first phase of the joint venture with JUTC is to be spent on getting the infrastructure ready for the project by refurbishing an existing building at the depot.

"Phase one will cost $35 million and phase two will cost $40 million," McCulloch revealed.

The acting HEART head said the financially challenged JUTC is responsible for providing the equipment needed to repair the buses.

HEART will provide the labour through its instructors and level-three trainees.

An employee at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company's Rockfort depot on
Windward Road, Kingston 2, works to repair this unit that was damaged in
a crash. - File

"The trainees would have already completed levels one and two in the automotive vocation at JAGAS and would be enrolled as level-three students during the project.

"They will get an allowance that would come from HEART as is customary," said McCulloch.

The first injection of cash will not happen before the start of the 2013/2012 financial year.

"We will not have this money before April 1, 2013. Phase one will be done in the 2013/2014 financial year."

Elaine Foster Allen, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education that has portfolio responsibility for HEART Trust/NTA, said the proposed spend was justified because of the training component.

"The HEART Trust/NTA is entering into a joint-venture agreement with JUTC investing in heavy-duty motor-vehicle repairs, essentially of JUTC buses. This of course has a major training component in mechanics at NVQ level 3 and above," noted Foster Allen, in a written response to Sunday Gleaner queries.