Jamaica News: German Ship Repair Jamaica Limited (GSRJ) has partnered with the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to undertake its skills training programme, aimed at increasing employment in the logistics and maritime industries.
Speaking with JIS News, Public Relations and Human Resource Manager at GSRJ, Dr. Birte Timm, pointed out that the two-year training programme entails theory and apprenticeship components covering aspects of ship repair and welding.
“This training initiative is stemming from the fact that there is no ship repair industry in Jamaica at present. The closest facilities available are in Curaçao and The Bahamas, which primarily attract the cruise vessels, but for the container ships for which Jamaica is one of the main destinations in the region as a transshipment port, we have no skill sets readily available in Jamaica that are required to work on those huge container vessels,” Dr. Timm noted.
She said that the 20 participants in the programme have already covered a year and a half of training in ship repair and welding.
“We are now offering welding and will soon add mechanical engineering and machine repair as the next competences, with considerations to be given to painting, refurbishing and carpentry as areas to offer in the future,” Dr. Timm said.
She explained that the German Dual Apprenticeship Model has been applied to the training programme with focus on both an apprenticeship component, while rolling out the theory.
“So, while they are doing the theory, they have a programme of two years in which the apprentice will spend at least 50 per cent at the employer getting on-the-job training and learning from those persons who are already versatile in that area,” Dr. Timm said.
“It is impossible to learn it from a theoretical perspective as you cannot learn how to repair ships, how to weld huge ship parts together in theory, but you have to be guided by people who have learnt the trade, doing this for many, many years,” she added.
Emphasising the importance of skills training and labour, she noted that there has to be a rethinking and rebranding around skill, how skills training is carried out, what it means to be a skilled and certified craftsman, and how these persons are sought after internationally.
“In Germany, there is a great respect for skills training, skilled labour and trade, so after a person goes through the apprenticeship programme for two years, they get a very valuable certificate, and these people are not just handymen, they are technical experts, and from this position they move up in their companies and continue to grow their expertise and have very well-paid jobs,” Dr. Timm pointed out.
She further outlined that the intention of GSRJ to build a ship-repair facility in Kingston Harbour, is to boost employment and introduce the country to viable economic activities in the shipping and maritime industry.
The training programme, she noted, will, therefore, build the capacity and establish a pool of skilled persons locally to work at the ship-repair facility, instead of having to recruit from overseas.
“In order for a logistics hub to be successful, it is very critical that the Government support these types of training initiatives, and we have reached out to the Government and the Special Economic Zone Authority and both institutions have been very supportive in assisting us in developing this scheme,” Dr. Timm said.
“We are presently entering discussions as to how this programme can be offered on a larger, national scale; how we can engage other industry partners and how they can come on board and benefit from a similar type of apprenticeship programme,” she added.