Sat | Sep 30, 2023

JPS Foundation’s Fresh Start JA programme stirs hope for young graduates

Published:Wednesday | November 16, 2022 | 12:09 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Rohan Campbell receives the award for Top Performer in Electrical Installation from JPS president and CEO, Michel Gantois.
Rohan Campbell receives the award for Top Performer in Electrical Installation from JPS president and CEO, Michel Gantois.
Graduates enjoy a video presentation of fellow students’ testimonials.
Graduates enjoy a video presentation of fellow students’ testimonials.

“The dream has been fulfilled,” declared Rohan Campbell as he basked in the reality that he would now be working at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) as an electrical technician, having successfully completed a programme of training for vulnerable youth in the St James and St Catherine communities.

Campbell, whose ambition has always been to work at the JPS in the area of electrical engineering and technology, said he experienced repeated bouts of depression as he felt he was neither living up to his potential nor contributing to society in the way that he ought to.

But after attending church one day, he heard of the Fresh START JA programme that was being offered by the JPS Foundation in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), HEART Trust/NSTA, and other organisations.

“Once I heard JPS I was on board before I even got through. I was filled with joy because JPS was always a dream, a place where I always wanted to work from I recognised the passion for the electrical field in high school,” he said.

Campbell was among the over 35 participants who graduated from the programme last Thursday at the Swallowfield Chapel in Kingston.

He is also among the 19 participants who have been awarded employment opportunities at various organisations, including the JPS, Western Construction and Wedderburn D S Limited.

The five-month programme involved the training and certification of young adults from the vulnerable communities of Montpelier in St James and Quarry Hill and Clifton in St Catherine, who were trained in the areas of solar installation, electrical installation, and vegetation management.

They were also given internship opportunities which lasted from 4 to 6 weeks, and were engaged in mentorship and leadership sessions.

Campbell was named the top performer in electrical engineering. This recognition, he said, has restored his hope for the future and has motivated him to continue on his career path.

“I strongly believe that it is one of many more great steps to come,” he said.

He says he felt as though someone had been reading pages from his own life and the goal he was striving to achieve during the training. He said that learning had also given him the tools he needed to overcome his depression and grow into the man he is today.

“It has been phenomenal so far, it is one of the greatest milestones I would say I have achieved in a long while,” he said of his job.

Campbell hopes to further his studies and earn a degree that would enable him to work his way up the JPS corporate ladder and make a greater contribution to society as an electrical engineer.

It was a view shared by the organisers and sponsors of the programme.

Charles Clayton, director of community renewal at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), said the graduates’ training was simply the “starting point” of their careers and the beginning of their journey in life as an adult.

Morana Smodlaka Krajnovic, chief of party and local partner for development at USAID FHI360, expressed her delight at the prospect of working with Jamaican partners in the public and private sectors to further the country’s goals of increased security, prosperity, and safety.

She urged the graduates not to give up, even as the acknowledged that it was indeed challenging for people who decided to further their studies but who were subsequently unable to find employment.

Similarly, Ramsay McDonald, deputy chairman at the JPS Foundation, charged the youth “to grab with both hands the opportunities that are presented [to them],” and to “continue to climb higher [and] never stop asking the questions”, and seeking to improve themselves.

Michel Gantois, JPS president and chief executive officer, said the company believed in investing in the Jamaican people through education by training them through its learning and development institute.

He said the programme was a fresh start for the youngsters to use the skills developed to assist themselves and family as well as for the possibility of starting their own businesses or to enter into new and emerging fields.

“The future is yours. Use this opportunity to make a fresh start, for yourself, your communities, and your country,” he said.