Speech by the Prime Minister

Virtual Launch of HEART Trust/ NSTA & Cisco Networking Academy

The Managing Director of HEART NSTA, 

The Trust representatives

And partners of the private sector and Civil Society and the public sector 

Representatives of the media,

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has very clearly highlighted that, to strengthen our resilience as a country, we need to reconfigure and transform our economy.

In addition to the current disruption from the pandemic induce lockdowns and economic contraction, technological adoption by companies is transforming tasks, jobs, and skills. Automation in conjunction with the COVID-19 induce recession is creating a double disruption scenario for workers. The pace of technology adoption is expected to remain unabated and likely to accelerate in some areas.

Although a number of jobs will be destroyed, there will be huge new opportunities created in the digital economy.

The World Economic Forum, and the most recent, the future of jobs report estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by technology while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour among humans, machines, and algorithms.

In the absence of proactive efforts, inequality is likely to be exacerbated by the dual impact of technology and the pandemic recession. Jobs held by lower wage workers, women, and younger workers were more deeply impacted in the first phase of economic contraction. 

As a country, we need to accelerate our investments in the markets and jobs of tomorrow. We need to diversify our industrial and productive base. Far too long, we have been dependent on the traditional industries that have sustained us over the years. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for us to be more innovative. We must bring new ideas and technologies to expand and increase efficiency of our traditional industries. We must also invest in the industries of the future. We have already started to re-engineer our processes, for example, as a means of managing movement in our pandemic, we have recently launched the pilot of the new E-commerce National Delivery Solutions, (ENDS), in Portmore. This initiative is aimed at enabling and expanding our delivery economy by facilitating certain quick services/ businesses, providing food and pharmaceuticals to continue to operate for longer hours during the curfews. 

We are now firmly in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, which is about cyber-physical systems, artificial intelligence, biometrics, genome editing, renewable energy, 3D manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, business intelligence, big data, and the internet of things.

There are also new global trade dynamics that could see massive shifts in supply chains and production house.

There is much to be done to create the Jamaican with the highest level of socio-emotional intelligence, and competencies and skills, to be able to articulate in this new cyber-physical world.

This will enable us individually and as a people to accomplish great and complex tasks productively with a growth mindset while maintaining our emotions in social transactions to resolve conflict without violence with the pro-social and rational attitudes and it all starts with our education system. 

The Government has empanelled the Education Transformation Commission under the chairmanship of a world-renowned professor, Orlando Patterson, which will provide us with a roadmap to address these issues.

Today, we are seeing education systems worldwide struggling, due to inadequate connectivity and access to technology. Many classrooms lack internet connections leaving students ill-prepared for the opportunities and jobs generated by today’s information-driven economy even those educational institutions that have computers and internet access, oftentimes struggle to maintain and grow their information resources hampered by shortages in technology and technical experts. 

The Cisco Networking Academy programme is a timely response to these challenges. It is a highly successful alliance between Cisco systems, education, business, government, and community organizations. The programme has seen phenomenal growth since its launch in 1997 and now spans more than 180 countries. 

The HEART/ NSTA Trust has had a long partnership with Cisco. The Cisco Regional Academy, it was launched at the Stony Hill HEART Academy in February 2002. The HEART College of Innovation and Technology became the Cisco Academy Regional Support Center in 2013, providing support to nine institutions: six in Jamaica and three in the region.

Since 2002, nine thousand one hundred and ninety-two persons have been trained, certified and employed at various levels in the ICT sector.

The programme is today being relaunched across Jamaica with the aim of scaling it up through a train the trainer approach. The HEART College of Innovation and Technology is currently facilitating the training of the first cohort of 35 instructors in the Cisco Certified Network Associates Programme, which will run for eight months.

The programme will enable us to address the growing demand for networking professionals, particularly under the new normal that has resulted from the pandemic. 

Certification helps you to quickly gain and validate valuable skills to further your career. As job roles change and customers adopt different technologies, certifications must also evolve to respond to the industry, which is critical.

I commend the Heart/ NSTA Trust and Cisco Systems for forging this relationship through which Jamaicans will benefit from greater opportunities for training and certification in an area of high demand. This initiative is in perfect alignment with our plans for transforming into a digital society. 

We look forward to a successful collaboration and encourage other similar initiatives that will help us to train and up-skill our workforce for global competitiveness and economic growth.

Thank you.