Young men hail articulated truck driving programme

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Participants enrolled in the inaugural articulated truck driving programme being offered by the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) Caribbean Military Academy (CMA) in Flanker, St James, say the initiative will provide an opportunity for young men to eke out a better living.

Thirty at-risk-youth from vulnerable communities in St James, including Flanker, Salt Spring and Rose Heights, are currently enrolled in the programme, where they will learn to operate heavy-duty vehicles, using truck simulators.

The programme, which commenced in January is being undertaken at a cost of $20 million through a partnership involving the Ministry of National Security; the CMA, which is the academic institutional arm of the JDF; the HEART/NSTA Trust; and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).

It consists of two modalities, part-time, which commenced on January 21 and runs for seven months ending August 25 and full-time, which also began on January 21 and will last for five months, culminating on June 25.

At the end of the programme, participants will receive truck driving certification from the CMU and a national vocational qualification of Jamaica (NVQJ) level 3 certificate in commercial driving operations.

Twenty- five year old Leroy Lothian of Rose Heights, St James, who is enrolled in the programme on a part-time basis, says the initiative will redound to the country’s benefit, as it will help to steer young men away from criminal activities.

“I believe that these are the kind of things that we need that will actually steer young men in the right direction, because the thing is, in today’s society, if you have too many idle hands then you will have a lot of problems. So when persons have things that they can focus on and that can actually benefit them in a positive way, they will live a more positive life,” he told JIS News.

Lothian believes that the success of the programme will inspire other young men to seek training at the CMA.

“I look forward to seeing more programmes like this being rolled out, so that other young people can take part, and I hope that our success in this programme will motivate other individuals to also take part in this programme as well,” he said.

Apart from his fascination with trucks, Lothian said the training opportunity will help him to realise his dream of acquiring a technical skill.

“I mostly did business and science subjects [in high school] and I wanted something technical to go along with it because what is going on with the current pandemic… it is best when you have more than one alternatives, so you can always have something to fall back on and gain an income,” he stated.

“This programme is something that I have always wanted to take part in because I have always been fascinated with trucks, how they operate and stuff like that. So when the programme was first introduced, I took every opportunity to get myself in position to be able to attend the classes,” he added.

The aspiring truck driver said he intends to exploit the technical and character development skills gained from the programme “to better operate and conduct myself in the working environment”.

He adedd: “We have been learning about pre inspection of the truck and its different parts and stuff that we need to do when operating the machine. So far, the classes are amazing and we are doing as best as possible not just for class purposes, but to conduct ourselves when we are through with the classes.”

Taxi operator Aloye Ennis, 32, of Salt Spring did not hesitate to enrol in the programme when it was brought to his attention.

He said that he saw the initiative as an opportunity to improve his standard of living and better provide for his family.

“I run taxi to support my family. I wanted to improve myself in my area of skill set, and I heard about the programme and I thought it would be suitable for me. I am learning new skills, improving on what I already know and also learning how to interact with the public,” he states.

“The programme is a good idea and I hope it doesn’t stop here but goes further and educate more young men and uplift them so they can support their families,” Ennis added.

Giving an overview of the programme at a ceremony held recently at the CMA in Flanker, Major Georgette Grant-McDonald of the JDF said the aim of the training programme is not just to provide participants with skills in truck driving but also to “engender a disinclination to participate in undesirable activities”.

She said that participants will be engaged in an exit readiness programme that will foster character development, conflict resolution and team-building skills.

“It is important for us to train the young men of our nation. However, instead of just training them and leaving them, we are planning an exit readiness programme in collaboration with the HEART/NSTA Trust,” she stated.

“The aim of this exit readiness programme is to prepare the participants to be ready for the work world, so they will be taught effective resume and job letter application, employability and interview skills, as well as appropriate interview attire. You will have practice interviews and persons will be invited to come in and do practice interviews with them,” she explained.

Major Grant-McDonald said that at the end of the training a job fair will be hosted in an effort to secure employment for participants.

Stakeholders in and around Montego Bay and Westmoreland, she said, will be invited to participate. “Some of the persons who are targeted are Wards Power Tool Hardware, Surdeen Equipment and Trucking Services, Popkins Trucking, Westron Limited and Westmoreland Trucking.”

Participants, said the army major, will also be able to fill the demand to operate heavy-duty units overseas.

A second programme will commence at Up Park Camp in Kingston in May on a part-time and full-time basis.

The JDF said it is looking to engage 110 youth in Western Jamaica and 115 participants in Kingston over a two-and-a-half year period under the programme.

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