KINGSTON, Jamaica: The People’s National Party says it is alarmed by statements made by the Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in which he hinted at importing skilled workers in the island for upcoming developments.
In a statement today, the Opposition noted that the Government has announced several training programmes including the HOPE programme which sought to train and certify over 20,000 youth in various skills, yet it is now seeking to import skilled labourers into the country for jobs for which our local labour force is qualified.
PNP Chair Dr. Angela Brown Burke expressed great concern at the implication that the programmes implemented by the government were not able to provide the necessary skilled workers for the local labour force.
She noted that during the last six years, the Prime Minister ought to have been aware and should have taken into consideration the current situation of available skilled labour in the island and ensured that Jamaican workers would be trained and certified to fill the gap.
A 2021 STATIN report had indicated that 94,300 persons aged 14 years and older were unemployed. She also noted that thousands of Jamaicans who have completed related training programs at Heart/VTDI but have not received their NCTVET certification. There are also thousands of skilled labourers who have been certified or are waiting to be certified by HEART/NSTA. “These youngsters constitute a ready pool of qualified workers and apprentices. This automatic default to foreign workers will be vigorously protested”, said Dr. Brown Burke.
Dr. Brown Burke acknowledges that the Prime Minister’s statements are an admission of failure and incompetence on his part being the Minister in charge of the HEART/NSTA TRUST and the Minister who recently presided over the restructuring of the entity which resulted in the decimation of the workforce-based and community-based training departments.
The Opposition agrees that the recent mismanagement and pillaging have robbed this potentially powerful institution of its capacity to respond to the expected demand but remains hopeful that with some planning and creativity HEART can be restored to its former capacity to meet the needs of our current labour market.