Mon | Jun 14, 2021

Lower HEART rate triggers concern at PAC meeting

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2021 | 12:18 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Dr Janet Dyer, managing director of the HEART/NSTA Trust.
Dr Janet Dyer, managing director of the HEART/NSTA Trust.

With fewer than half of the HEART/National Service Training Agency (NSTA) Trust’s students being certified at the end of their programmes between 2014-15 and 2018-19, the institution is moving to adjust its target rate of 70 per cent certification to between 45 and 50 per cent.

The disclosure was made by the institution’s managing director, Dr Janet Dyer, as she appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.

An Auditor General’s Department (AuGD) report tabled last year, which covered the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19, had questioned whether the state agency was delivering value for the more than $30 billion in expenditure for the period with a 45 per cent certification rate, way below its 70 per cent target.

“Having completed the evaluation, we did our research and it is based on the research that we did, we realised that international benchmarks for tech/voc certification led us to between a 45 and 50 per cent certification on an annual basis,” Dyer said yesterday, giving the rationale for adjusting the target downwards.

“So basically, you are saying the 70 per cent – wherever it was derived from – was unrealistic and now you are making an adjustment to bring it down to between 45 and 50 per cent?” asked PAC Chairman Julian Robinson.

“That is what we are doing, sir,” Dyer responded.

The opposition member of parliament, however, took issue with the fact that no one could offer an explanation as to the basis for the 70 per cent benchmark, and that it could be so arbitrarily changed to fall in line with the low certification rate.

“That is a little troubling because I would think that whoever came up with the 70 per cent that there would have been some thought process behind. It wouldn’t have just been pulled out of the air. I am also concerned that management has the latitude to make that adjustment so significantly without more, ... but somebody must know where the 70 per cent came from in the first place,” Robinson said.

The Pamela Monroe Ellis-led AuGD had undertaken a review of the HEART/NSTA operations to determine whether it was effectively managing its programmes to contribute to Jamaica achieving a competent and efficient labour market force in the context of Vision 2030, specifically Goal Two, which speaks to world-class education and training.

“Given the low certification rate of 45 per cent, it is our view that HEART would not have yielded maximum returns on its training skills programme for the expenditure of $30.5 billion incurred over the period 2014/15 to 2018/19,” Monroe Ellis told the committee yesterday.

“HEART plays a contributing role to this specific national goal, which the aim really is for Jamaica’s workforce to be equipped to respond to a rapid evolving economy and to improve the capacity to support opportunities for education and training, particularly the unattached youth,” she added.

Citing annual labour force surveys conducted by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica between October 2014 and October 2018, the AuGD found that a staggering 61 per cent of the labour force, on average, did not have any certification.

“It’s our view that this heightens the need for HEART to effectively manage its education and skills training programme to meet the demand of the labour force,” Monroe Ellis said.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com