New ‘Lift’ for youngsters

HIGH school leavers aged 17 and over can now apply for the Government’s Learning and Investment for Transformation (Lift) Programme, aimed at socially and economically elevating young people.

The internship initiative, which will focus on fifth and sixth form graduates who have not yet matriculated into further studies, is targeting 500 young people over the next five years — 2,500 in total — to equip them with skills training, a one-year job placement in public or private entities, and other opportunities.

Officially launched during Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Lift is a social re-engineering programme that was introduced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in his budget debate presentation in March.

Being rolled out at a cost of over $2 billion, the programme is a collaboration between the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) through the HEART/NSTA Trust and the Ministry of Education and Youth.

Application forms will be made available on the website of the HEART/NSTA Trust and at the offices of Members of Parliament (MP) in each constituency across the country.

Minister without portfolio at OPM with responsibility for skills and digital transformation, Senator Dr Dana Morris Dixon, said the programme is not just a ticket to employment, but a comprehensive initiative which will provide participants with “the fundamentals to prosper”.

“We are going to be targeting school leavers with a specific emphasis on those who finished the [Sixth Form] Pathways programme but it’s really for school leavers generally, and it’s for them to be able to get employment after leaving school. Not everybody goes to tertiary institutions, not everybody goes to HEART, although I would love more to do so especially since it’s free,” she said.

Morris Dixon said that a key element of the programme is access and inclusion, and participants will be chosen from every constituency.

“What we will be doing, we want to choose eight students from every constituency because access is important — we want to actually spread it out across Jamaica,” she said, adding that people with disabilities will also be considered.

Morris Dixon further explained that at the core of the programme is social and economic mobility, where the school leavers will be provided with “a sustainable avenue for education and employment and assimilation in society and we also want them to become productive citizens in Jamaica”.

Providing details on how the programme will be carried out, managing director of HEART/NSTA Trust, Dr Taneisha Ingleton said the aim of the initiative is to “make our young people Monday morning ready”.

“As the country approaches full employment — and we have the data to indicate that we are almost at full employment — we have to ensure that our ‘out of school’ population is directed into the workforce with work-ready knowledge, with work-ready skills and with work-ready attitudes,” she said.

She explained that successful applicants will go through a three-phased process which includes rigorous recruitment and orientation exercises which will determine their competences and where best placed. During the process, their employability skills will also be enhanced where they will be trained in financial and digital literacy.

“Then there is the engagement period which is eight weeks. So we will take them through eight weeks of skills training and in this particular phase, we will help them to open bank accounts, we will help them to get their tax registration number, we will help them to get their national insurance scheme number and their driver’s licence. They will be taken through a programme where they learn to drive. We will provide them with their provisional driver”s licence exam and during the period of placement, we will collaborate with the various ministries, departments and agencies for them to do their actual driving test to be secured with their driver’s licence,” she said.

Ingleton said the exciting aspect of the initiative is the year of immersion where participants will be placed across MDAs and in private sector entities in collaboration with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

“Importantly, this programme is also about investment and so our young people will be getting $85,000 monthly…$70,000 in hand and $15,000 will be placed in their bank accounts that they will not be able to access until they complete the programme. This is important because we want to teach our young people how to save. They’ll also get opportunities to mentor; there’ll be opportunities to volunteer,” she said.

She noted that to be eligible for the programme, applicants must be 17 years or older with a high school-leaving certificate; and graduated from high school within the last year in the case of fifth form graduates, or the last two years in the case of sixth form graduates. Additionally, applicants must have at least three Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CXC) subjects and they must include maths and English and must submit two character references from a school official, pastor, justice of the peace or MP.

Applicants also need to demonstrate a financial need, as the programme is designed to ensure that individuals who are most in need get the opportunity to participate.

Ingleton said the application period will run from August 10 to 31; orientation will take place between September 2023 and November 2023; and the job placement period will last from November 2023 to November 2024.

In the meantime, responding to a question posed by the media regarding the programme being politicised, minister without portfolio in the OPM with responsibility for information, Robert Morgan, assured that the fact that an MP is going to make recommendations “doesn’t mean that the MP will give approval”.

Referring to the programme as a “future employee starter pack”, Morgan insisted that “it is a very transparent process that is being engaged by professionals at HEART/NSTA Trust who are not politically affiliated and will make objective assessments of the candidates.”