Speech by the Prime Minister

Statement by the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister on the Jamaica National Service Corps

Statement by the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister on the Jamaica National Service Corps

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mr. Speaker, on March 21, 2017, I tabled a Bill to amend the Defence Act; to establish an arm of the Jamaica Defence Force to be known as the Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC).  The establishment of the JNSC is a critical component of the JDF’s Employment and Engagement Strategy and is also an integral component of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Initiative, which I also launched during my Budget Presentation in March 2017.

On Saturday, September 23, 2017, I was the Reviewing Officer at the Passing Out Ceremony for the first cohort of Jamaica National Service Corps soldiers.  This was an extremely proud moment for me personally and one for which the entire nation should feel a sense of pride.

The 232 privates and 2 potential officers completed 13 weeks of intense training. Their training challenged them mentally and physically and throughout, these young men demonstrated real strength of character.   This first Phase of their training programme covered thirteen (13) weeks, which represents Phase 1 of five (5) phases of a year-long programme. The curriculum for Phase 1 had the following main areas of focus:

  • Discipline;
  • Military Service Knowledge;
  • Barracks Room Procedures;
  • Physical Fitness and Conditioning;
  • Foot and Arms Drill;
  • Skill at Arms (M16 rifle);
  • Basic Field Craft/Adventure Training;
  • Map Reading;
  • Basic First Aid; and
  • Basic Signals

Mr. Speaker, these newly minted soldiers will embody the underpinning of this programme which is that they will be instilled with the principle to  Learn, Earn, Give (back) and Save – LEGS.  They will do so by applying the core values of the JDF: Commitment; Courage; Honour; Integrity; Loyalty; and Discipline.  In order to have a safe, secure and progressive nation, we must uphold these values and make them a way of life.  This augurs well for Jamaica’s development and engagement of its young people, particularly our unattached youth.  This National Service Corps creates endless possibilities for our young people as they will now be equipped with the requisite skills for either an extended career in the JDF or for excelling in other areas.

In November, the JDF will welcome another 250 new recruits, and while the first intake of recruits had no women, we will certainly have women in the next intake.  Mr. Speaker, let me remind this Honourable House that the Jamaica National Service Corps is the new intake mechanism for the JDF whereby a total of 1,000 persons will be recruited annually and trained over a one-year period in military, in vocational and broader life skills.  This represents an increase in intake of over 700 persons per year; many of whom will continue in the JDF.

Mr. Speaker, countries that have successfully implemented national service programmes have seen the benefits through greater:

  • social cohesion,
  • sense of citizenship and duty,
  • public order and general discipline,
  • civic pride.

Jamaica’s  National Service Corps will also reap similar benefits.  The JNSC is an avenue for our young people to be involved in empowering themselves and building our country through national service.  We must continue to engage our young people by building greater civic pride, character and personal development and to provide a pool of trained labour of a high standard from which other organizations within society can absorb.

Mr. Speaker, I must especially applaud the JDF for understanding and committing to the importance of the Housing, Opportunity, Production, Employment (HOPE) Initiative.  The critical role of the JDF in undertaking the National Service Corps cannot be overstated.  This third category of service in the JDF provides an avenue for exponentially spreading the core values of the JDF.

Mr. Speaker, the social issues that we are grappling with – crime, corruption, domestic abuse, unemployment, indiscipline all significantly impact on our economic development and securing our nation must be a multi-pronged strategy.

We must recognize the linkages that have to be in place for safety and security, nation building and development.  The Jamaica National Service Corps is one such manifestation of this strategy.  It is incumbent upon us to empower our young men and women to assume their role as valuable contributors to Jamaica’s social and economic fabric.

Mr. Speaker, we are focusing on our people as we commit to Helping Our People Excel (HOPE) to secure a better future for Jamaica.