FHI 360 has launched the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Workforce Development Program, known as the Advance Program, in the Latin America and Caribbean Region, more specifically, Honduras, Guatemala and Jamaica. It is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for LAC and aims to improve the labour market sector in these regions by providing disadvantage youth with market-relevant skills. These skills they will acquire from the Program’s partnership with three select tertiary institutions who will receive capacity building support under the Program. In addition, the Program will provide scholarships to increase their accessibility to this training.

Speaking at the launch on February 28, 2017, at the Terra Nova Hotel to over 150 representatives from the education sector, private sector and youth development organizations, Alejandro Paredes, regional chief of party for the Advance Program, FHI 360, presented the findings of the Jamaica labour market sector assessment. This assessment revealed the gaps between the programs being offered by tertiary institutions and the current needs of the Jamaican labour market. He highlighted the way forward for the Advance Program.

According to the demographic sector assessment, 29% of the Jamaican population of 2.7 million is between 15-29 years old. Analysis of the findings revealed that Jamaica is in an intermediate transition where there is an increase in the elderly population and a reduction amongst the younger population. Paredes expressed that the government, the civil society and the private sector need to place emphasis in training and providing the market-relevant skills to the young people within the workforce.

Additionally, the assessment underscored the importance of a program such as this one. The low productivity rate in Jamaica accounts for its low level of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Paredes cited that the GDP since 2012 has stagnated and for the past 3 decades it has had an average of 1% growth. He added that the way to achieve a high productivity workforce is doing  less with more.

“If an employee does not have the relevant market skills, that person will likely take 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours to complete a task and that is low productivity. So, programs like this one are very important because it provides the techniques, tools, instruments the skills to disadvantaged populations  for  productivity and  to  be  highly productive  in  the  private sectors,” stated  Paredes.

Jamaica Country Program Director for FHI 360, Ruth Chisholm, along with her team, will collaborate with local economists, researchers and representatives from different schools to make deeper assessments of the material. An analysis of the participating institutions will be done in addition to other cross-cutting activities such as a study of barriers to access and completion.

“We will engage with the young people, the community and also collaborate with non-governmental organizations and the wider civil society. We will partner with local groups to identify scholarships beneficiaries to ensure that some of our most talented young people have the opportunity to pursue meaningful career paths,” added Chisholm.

 The Advance Program initiated plans to advance the labour market sector in the region from 2015 and will continue its research, development and implementation throughout another 3-year period.