Sun | May 26, 2024

Top performers shine through NCB Foundation’s Level Up Grant Programme

Published:Saturday | April 20, 2024 | 12:07 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer
Special awards were presented to the top performers of the programme (from left) Alecia Green, Mitzie Stewart, and Dorothy Price.
Special awards were presented to the top performers of the programme (from left) Alecia Green, Mitzie Stewart, and Dorothy Price.
Dancehall artiste Chi Ching Ching (right) and a member of the Get There Squad are seen teaching Dorothy Elaine Price (centre), a recent graduate of the NCB Foundation Level Up Grant Programme, one of their dance moves during the graduation ceremony on Thur
Dancehall artiste Chi Ching Ching (right) and a member of the Get There Squad are seen teaching Dorothy Elaine Price (centre), a recent graduate of the NCB Foundation Level Up Grant Programme, one of their dance moves during the graduation ceremony on Thursday.
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Mitzie Stewart became despondent with her regular job and was eager for a change in environment. She wanted to spend more time with her children, and working as a security officer did not give her the opportunity to be involved in their daily lives.

While scrolling through social media, Stewart came across an advertisement promoting the NCB Foundation’s Level Up Grant Programme and she applied. Her application was successful, and after completing six months of intense training and establishing her own business, she was among the 1745 individuals who graduated from the 2023/24 cohort on Thursday.

“I was motivated to participate in the programme. There were times that I told myself that I could not bother; but the trainers encouraged us, and they were so good, that we had no choice but to do our best,” Stewart told GoodHeart.

After a successful programme, Stewart is a now a budding entrepreneur. Her business, aptly named ‘The Virtual Assistant Boss Freelancing Services’ is helping other entrepreneurs and proprietors to manage their businesses more effectively. During the graduation exercise, Stewart was recognised in the ‘Most Helpful’ category.

“I feel great being recognised for my achievements. I would encourage persons to participate in the Programme. If there was any doubt about its effectiveness, I am a living testimony that you can make the change you need in your life,” she expressed.

The NCB Foundation Level Up Grant programme, initiated in 2019, strives to empower unemployed and underemployed Jamaicans by improving their skills and boosting their employability in the rapidly evolving digital sphere. So far, it has allocated over $150 million, enabling the digital upskilling of more than 12,000 Jamaicans who might not have otherwise had access to such training opportunities.

Jamilia Crooks-Brown, a programme administrator at the NCB Foundation, stated that in the 2023/24 cohort, over 3400 people were enrolled, with 1745 actively completing the six-week intensive training.

REQUIREMENTS

“The programme is open to ordinary Jamaicans to create registered businesses to advance their careers, and earn from their businesses. Many earn in US dollars and have been able to improve their lives and that of their families. The training is not a regular school setting, and once they can prove that they are unemployed, or underemployed, they get the opportunity to ‘level up’,” Crooks-Brown said.

The six-week training was conducted in areas such as freelancing on Fiverr and Upwork, artificial intelligence, financial literacy, and social media content creation, to name a few. In addition, participants were engaged in an exclusive 18-week programme focused on optimising their earnings through digital tools and group coaching sessions.

“Even though some of the participants did not graduate during this cohort, we are committed to ensuring that they will complete the programme. Once they are a part of the programme, we will continue to support them to ensure they complete and graduate,” Crooks-Brown added.

This year’s programme benefitted from a diverse group of adult learners, including persons living with disabilities, formerly incarcerated, and those who were in need.

The successful beneficiaries received special awards in the categories of Most Improved, Most Helpful, Most Unique Gig, Local Superstar Entrepreneurs and Top Earners.

Alecia Green, who received a Most Improved Award, joined the cohort in May 2023 and is now a certified designer. She admitted that she was a bit sceptical prior to joining the programme, but now having completed, she recommends that everyone should be a part.

The initiative is administered through a partnership with Internet Income Jamaica, which has been offering training and education for students to learn how to earn online for over a decade. Their goal is to equip students with the necessary training, tools, and support needed to establish a successful online business.

Resources available to students include online courses, live training, and ongoing personalised support from an experienced team of experts. According to Lorette Lyttle, co-founder of Internet Income Jamaica they offer a variety of courses that help to upskill persons for the digital market.

“The goal is to empower every Jamaican, irrespective of their background or challenges, to adapt successfully to our fast-evolving job market. We are committed to including those who have not had the opportunity to attend university. Everyone deserves the chance to learn, earn, and contribute meaningfully to society,” Lyttle said.

Sixty-six-year-old Dorothy Price, who is also a graduate of the programme, highlighted that the experience made her step outside her comfort zone, “I learned a lot from the course. I realised that I was able to do things that I never thought possible. I would encourage others like myself to be a part of the programme,”

Following the awards, graduates and attendees were treated to an engaging performance by dancehall artiste Chi Ching Ching.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com