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PM opens HEART 

EFFECTIVE April 1, 2023, the HEART/NSTA Trust will remove all tuition and administrative fees for its programmes up to the associate degree level, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced.

Holness, who was making his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate in Parliament on Thursday, said this is in furtherance of the trust’s policy directive to increase the size of Jamaica’s trained labour force.

“This will allow for access to vocational training for all Jamaicans regardless of economic status. This will be a game-changer for poor, underserved youth who see fees as an obstacle for their participation in formal training,” he said.

The prime minister further noted that ensuring a steady flow of trained workers aligned with industry demand is critical to sustain the growth of the economy, and as such, the HEART/NSTA Trust is transforming itself to meet the needs of new industry. He said the entity has been directed to modernise its offerings in response to the worldwide trend of automation, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence and high value services.

He said HEART is developing centres of excellence and science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) labs at several of its institutions.

“The HEART College of Innovation and Technology will focus on information security, mobile application development and mobile robotics; the Chocolate Hole Campus will offer vocational training such as optoelectronics (the study of light-emitting devices), mechatronics, robotics, programme logic control, geomatics and geospatial services, industrial electronics and renewable energy,” he said.

Holness noted as well that the National Tools and Engineering Institute has established a STEAM lab which will focus on training in renewable energy, with additional labs to come, which will offer training in Instrumentation, Electro-Hydraulic, Pneumatics, Electro Motor Controls and Computer Numerical Control Programming; the HEART College of Construction will host a Centre of Excellence focusing on Welding and Industrial Automation; the Ebony Park HEART Academy will host a Centre of Excellence with a focus on Soil Testing and Tissue Culture.

Additionally, he said HEART will continue its collaboration with the Ministry of Education through the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE)/Learning, Earning, Giving back, and Saving (LEGS) programme to provide a special internship for 500 promising fifth- and sixth-form students who have not yet matriculated to further studies, to secure placement in government entities or with other private sector partners for a period of one year.

“During the internship participants will be supported with a stipend of $70,000 monthly and assisted with the establishment of bank accounts and passport and other civil documents. There will also be a savings component where each candidate will receive a lump sum of $120,000 after completion. They will participate in core employability skills and personal development training, but their functional development will come through on-the-job exposure and mentorship,” he said.

In the meantime, the prime minister noted that the community-based training programme delivered by HEART, is “an area of concern” often raised with him by Members of Parliament.

“So what I have said to HEART is that the MPs should make their application and they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. So, come up with a good programme [which] is aligned to industry. Because what you don’t want to do is to use scarce resources to train skills that are not aligned to industry or train persons in areas where there is an oversupply of those skills. So, craft your programmes and apply. I know some of you have programmes there [at HEART]; they will review them and I personally have to come back to the House to give a further update on HEART,” he said.

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