Growth & Jobs | JAMPRO focuses on upskilling young people
Work is advancing on the five-year, US$15-million Global Services Sector (GSS) Project being implemented by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO).
Funded by a loan that was signed in 2019 between the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank, the project focuses on upskilling Jamaica’s workforce, particularly young people, to prepare them for jobs in the global services sector.
A major objective of the project is to improve the skills development system to provide the GSS with highly skilled workers in higher value-added jobs, thereby strengthening Jamaica’s capacity to attract investments and increase exports.
The project is supported by major stakeholders the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the HEART/NSTA Trust, and the Global Services Association of Jamaica.
SUCCESSFUL IN ATTRACTING COMPANIES
President of JAMPRO Diane Edwards explains that the global services sector refers to services that are outsourced to third parties, which can be delivered from various locations in the world.
“Jamaica has been extremely successful in attracting over 60 companies to this industry in Jamaica. People speak of it as business process outsourcing (BPO), but BPO is actually a misnomer, because a lot of people think that it’s an industry based on telephones, and it is really an industry based on [the] computer,” Edwards said.
“So, we need to upskill our young people to prepare them for the digital skill sets that are required by this industry, and hence we embarked on this programme to help to upskill people,” she adds.
The project has two components, one which focuses on providing a number of modules that will help young people to become digitally literate and digitally semi-skilled.
Edwards said the project has an executing unit which drives the implementation of the project.
She said that a major component that JAMPRO is driving that is linked to the growth of the industry, is the setting up of a Global Services Skills Council that brings together public sector representatives, including the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
“[It] also brings together private-sector representatives, such as the Global Services Association of Jamaica, and really try to help vocational training to become more responsive to the demands of the employers and marketplace. This is really critical because a lot of the training we have done, let us say, is not fit for the demands of the marketplace,” she notes.
The president says that as a result, employers have not always been happy with the graduates “we have been graduating from those programmes”.
“So, what we are doing is tailor-making and ensuring, through the Global Services Skills Council, that the training institutions, such as HEART/NSTA Trust, Vocational Training Development Institute and others, understand what the private sector is demanding and therefore can tailor-make their programmes to the needs of the marketplace,” Edwards explains.
So far, the GSS Project has developed a digital skills curriculum, which will serve to support the industry’s needs.
“This is really trying to give young people an understanding of digital skills. And that is not just keyboarding skills or programming skills; that includes a number of soft skills, critical-thinking skills, problem-solving – it’s a number of skills within that curriculum which we are now speaking to the Ministry of Education about, trying to get that into the secondary-school curriculum,” the JAMPRO president says.
There are several other initiatives being implemented under the programme, such as an industry skills upgrade strategy.
“[This] is really looking at a number of knowledge areas that we need to upgrade the skills of our people in, to really prepare them for the next generation of jobs that are going to require skills such as communication, digital marketing, software development, critical and analytical thinking, and human-centred and interaction design,” Edwards explains.
“So, these are not things people are learning at school, but they need these skills to be able to be job-ready for the jobs of the future,” she adds.
There is also an apprenticeship programme which is currently training some 600 persons in supervisory management.
“One of the great things about the outsourcing industry is that you can move very quickly up into the supervisory rank if you have the right skill set, and the right attitude. So, we are really training the middle management for middle-management capabilities,” Edwards notes.
There is also a career pathway framework which is going to enable young people to take ownership of their career path in the whole global services area.
“We are going to build a website which is going to allow young persons to conduct self-assessment to see which pathway they may be well suited for, and then they can access career advisory services for further guidance,” the president says.
A pilot internship programme is also being undertaken, which is focused on contracting interns for a period of three to six months in areas such as data analytics, network administration, finance and accounting, and project management.