Sat | Jun 3, 2023

Project STAR taking aim at Westmoreland, says Keith Duncan

Published:Friday | March 31, 2023 | 12:28 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


With the unemployment rate now at 28 per cent in Westmoreland, Keith Duncan, co-chair of the social transformation and renewal initiative Project STAR, says the organisation is actively seeking to find and train for the job market, unattached youths within unplanned communities in the parish.

According to Duncan, residents of Seaton Crescent, popularly referred to as ‘Russia’, will benefit from the initiative, which will also engage other youngsters from the communities of Harmony Town, Market Oval, Twelve Street and Cooke Street, in Savanna-la-Mar, where community consultations have been ongoing since January.

“When we look at our workforce, the national data say unemployment is six per cent, [but] in Westmoreland, unemployment is 28 per cent and those that are unemployed are those that are actively seeking jobs,” said Duncan. “We are doing job surveys, as we speak because we want to engage the community to find out who wants jobs, (and) what kind of jobs. In fact, not just any jobs because we want to be able to train them ... in life skills.”

Duncan, who was speaking at last week’s Westmoreland Police Civic Committee awards banquet, said that while the unemployment level is high in the parish, a number of these young people might have a few subjects or a HEART/NSTA certificate and might only now need to understand how to operate in the workplace.

“What our youths need is not only technical skills, because they might have some subject. But what they need is (to learn) how to exist in the workplace and to be able to function productively. And how to deal with confrontation if they fall out with their friends so that they don’t start fighting in the people’s businessplace,” said Duncan.

Duncan, who is also chairman of the country’s Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), said part of the work being done by Project STAR is to connect the communities to government services with a view to transform the spaces, as well as provide the private sector with communities that are investor friendly.


“I want the private sector to be able to see that this community of Savanna-la-mar and any community that project STAR is in, is ripe for investments, agro-processing, BPO, real estate and manufacturing. This is what we want to do to ensure that we are creating investor-friendly communities,” said Duncan.

Prime minister Andrew Holness recently gave support to targeting unattached young persons for training to meet the local demand for skilled workers across sectors.

Addressing the launch of the Jamaica National Service Corps residential camp for unattached youths from marginalised communities Holness said that Jamaica might have to import labour due to a shortage of skilled personnel. He reported that he had received a call from a local business operator who expressed challenges in finding 50 workers. However, Holness said he was not inclined to import labour, but would instead target unattached youths for training through the efforts of HEART/NSTA Trust.