Fri | Jun 9, 2023

HEART pitches skills as ‘currency of the future’

Don’t brand vocational training as reserve of non-academic students, says MD

Published:Thursday | January 26, 2023 | 1:08 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Taneisha Ingleton, managing director, HEART/NSTA Trust.
Taneisha Ingleton, managing director, HEART/NSTA Trust.
Plumber Andre Smith takes a measurement at a construction site in Silverstone, Portmore. Urging a rethink of technical and vocational education and training, HEART/NSTA Trust Managing Director Taneisha Ingleton says “we can use skills to leverage and gen
Plumber Andre Smith takes a measurement at a construction site in Silverstone, Portmore. Urging a rethink of technical and vocational education and training, HEART/NSTA Trust Managing Director Taneisha Ingleton says “we can use skills to leverage and generate income”.

Jamaicans have been urged to reject the stereotype of skill-based professions as a last resort for youth who are not academically proficient.

Dr Taneisha Ingleton, managing director of the HEART/NSTA Trust, called for greater focus on training and certification in specialised labour, which she said should not be seen as inferior to more conventional forms of employment.

Ingleton insisted that the divide between traditional academics and technical and vocational education and training studies has existed for too long.

“It’s not that academics and TVET studies are mutually exclusive. You need the same kind of base, so it’s not a case where you can’t read and write properly so you go to HEART. That can’t work anymore ... . You need a proper educational base in order for you to advance in any area,” she said.

“Let us not be a part of perpetuating that narrative of medicine and law because even though they are necessary and they will never go away, we know that what the plumber and what the electrician and the beauty therapist and the hairdresser and the nail technician make per month, we know, if we should measure that against the traditional areas, then we can have a different conversation.”

Ingleton was speaking at the WorldSkills Jamaica national skills competition press launch at The Jamaica Pegasus recently.

Pitching skills as “currency of the future”, the HEART/NSTA Trust managing director said that the agency’s goal was to develop resilient human capital that will not only promote social mobility but safeguard the economy.

The Trust is also examining the changing dynamics of the workplace and forecasting the sources of jobs of the future and seeking to ensure that employees have the optimal skills.

Ingleton brushed aside notions that technical and vocational education required a lower bar of excellence.

“Academics and TVET are not mutually exclusive, and the same kind of rigour that it takes to advance in medicine is the same kind of rigour that it takes to advance in the fashion industry, in precision agriculture, in agro-processing, in robotics, up to electronics,” Ingleton said.

“All of these are stemming from the TVET vein, so let us understand how important it is for us to change that narrative and to help individuals to understand that we can use skills to leverage and generate income.”

From 2019 to 2022, the Trust graduated 19,300 trainees in emerging fields such as digital animation, painting and graphics, geomatic and geospatial services, webpage and website design, general construction, and electrical installation, among others. Within the current financial year, 35,000 at-risk youths were enrolled.

Approximately $50 million has been earmarked to support micro, small, and medium enterprises in collaboration with the Jamaica 4-H and trainee start-ups.

The organisation certified 30,495 participants as at December 2022, with 6,784 of them placed in decent jobs.

Addressing talk of a skill shortage in Jamaica, Christene Gittens, senior director of corporate planning and strategic development, said that more than 4,700 graduates of the Trust in 2022 were trained to work in the construction industry.

“Some of the things that we have done, specifically for that industry and for all the other industries is ... we’ve started having shorter programmes. Traditionally, our programmes are 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, and sometimes longer, but what we’ve realised is that the industries are calling for persons now,” she said.

In April, Prime Minister Andrew Holness emphasised that the country was experiencing a labour deficit in the construction sector, noting that this could trigger the importation of skilled workers to help execute development projects.

Gittens acknowledged that higher-income countries would continue to woo workers and their families.

“If the employers don’t pay them enough and Cayman (Islands) is going to pay them enough, or Canada is going to pay them enough, or US is going to pay them enough, they are going to go,” she said.

WorldSkills International (WSI) is a not-for-profit association with 85 member countries, of which Jamaica has been part since 2002. Its mission is to raise the profile and recognition of skilled people by demonstrating how their abilities contribute to economic development and individual success.

The competition is held every two years to showcase more than 60 skill areas, with the main goals of promoting the exchange of skills, technological innovation, and experience among young professionals. The event aims to raise understanding in governments, the education sector, and industry about the importance of skill training.

The HEART/NSTA Trust – the home of WorldSkills Jamaica – is scheduled to commence its eighth staging of its national skills competition. Additionally, it seeks to highlight the relevance of TVET and the significance of investing in the skills of youth.

The local competition hopes to attract 230 competitors aged 17-25 who are skilled across 35 areas and are affiliated with an institution or company in one of the related industries.

Some of the areas in which individuals will participate include the creative arts and fashion, construction and building technology, logistics, social and personal services, and tourism and hospitality.

The Trust will also host a junior skills competition targeting primary-school to ninth-grade students.

The portal for the submission of applications will run from January 20 to February 4. The national skills competition will run from May 29 to June 2. The selection process will be on June 6, and the 46th staging of the international competition will be held in Lyon, France, from September 10 to 14, 2024.

Those seeking to apply can visit the website and complete the online form.