Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Former boys home transforms to training centre

Published:Thursday | October 7, 2021 | 12:09 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer

THE ST John Bosco Vocational Training Centre has taken skills certifying to a new level. Formerly operating as a residential home for boys placed by the Family Court and Child Care Services, it has now transitioned to being a vocational training institution.

Founded in 1960 by a Catholic order of nuns called the Sisters of Mercy, their programme at the time included residential accommodations, school, and trade training.

With many of their wards having significant behavioural problems and behind in their education, the registered school on the campus focused on preparing the boys for employment.

“Once boys attained a certain standard in behaviour and education they were placed in a trade. Skills training and employability were paramount. Boys who completed trades were certified and placed in jobs. The school also ensured that they were transitioned to their own living arrangements with basic furnishings and appliances,” said executive director of Religious Sisters of Mercy, Sister Susan Frazer.

In 2018, the decision was taken by the Sisters of Mercy of Jamaica to transform the school from a residential programme to a day programme. With this change, the institution has retained a small residential programme for boys who may live a distance away from the institution, as well as accommodating boys placed through the Child Protection and Family Services Agency.

Now operating as a vocational training institution, they will be adapting the same mandate – with enhanced features.

“Based on the new initiative by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information with the K-13 Initiative, the vocational training has now been approved to be part of the sixth form programme for Pathway II and Pathway III,” Sister Frazer informed.

There will also be a Level 2 diploma programme in barbering and food and beverage service. Certification will be offered in meat cutting and processing, animal husbandry, as well as farming and greenhouse technology. All the programmes being offered under the sixth form programme are certified by City and Guilds. The institution will now expand its enrolment to include female students.

Enrolment has already started for the sixth form programme with classes set to begin by October 4.

The idea for the sixth form programme was inspired by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information’s increased push in that direction.

This initiative meant significant improvement in the centre’s infrastructure. Sister Susan credited the Digicel Foundation‘s partnership with Sisters of Mercy for the improvements.

“Digicel Foundation is our main sponsor in funding the reconstruction of the main school building. It features a student multipurpose room, two tech-based classrooms, main lobby and reception area, the admin block with staff rooms,” she noted.

Encouraged by response

Sister Susan said although they have always been involved in helping young people over several decades, they are encouraged by the response from them to the new programmes.

She feels it is due largely in part to the fact that they have never stereotyped them, but have always taken them where they are and worked with them based on their abilities.

“We have a high rate of success as some of our graduates have found work in hospitality, on cruise ships, in meat departments in supermarkets, overseas opportunities and in farming. We also have a 40-year history of teaching trades leading to employment. This was long before trade training was recognised as a viable path for young people who were not thriving in an academic setting,” she notes.

The training centre is partnering with Damion Young, who has been working extensively with young people and the unattached through his company, Home Grown Produce. He has been recruiting those who need an initiative like what the institution is offering.

Commenting on his role in helping to recruit for the programme, Young credits it as being an insightful and timely one on the part of St John Bosco training.

Affirming his support for the programme in terms of mobilising young people across Manchester to be trained and empowered, he notes that skill is, and always will be, power.