Truck-driving programme gives hope to inner-city youth

April 19, 2021
An 18-wheeler truck.
An 18-wheeler truck.
Army officer Georgett Grant-McDonald.
Army officer Georgett Grant-McDonald.

Leroy Lothian of Rose Heights, St James, is among 30 participants enrolled in the inaugural Articulated Truck Driving Programme being offered by the Jamaica Defence Force's (JDF) Caribbean Military Academy (CMA) in Flanker.

Tailored to at-risk youth from vulnerable communities in St James, including Flanker, Salt Spring and Rose Heights, participants are being taught to operate heavy-duty vehicles using truck simulators.

Lothian, 25, said that 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 (with) 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 said.

"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.

Major Georgette Grant-McDonald of the JDF said that 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".

"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 said.

Cost of $20 million

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).

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.

The army officer anticipates that participants will also be able to fill the demand to operate heavy-duty units locally and overseas.

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

"I run taxi to support my family. I wanted to improve myself in my area of skillset 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 said.

"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.

A second Articulated Truck Driving Programme is expected to commence at Up Park Camp in Kingston in May. 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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