In celebration of National Manufacturers’ Month 2023, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), in a coordinated effort with five of its member companies, opened its doors to 80 high school and tertiary students to tour their facilities throughout October. The tours were part of a comprehensive effort to inspire the next generation of manufacturers by showcasing the outstanding opportunities and current realities of high-tech manufacturing careers.
The tours allowed students to step behind the scenes, offering them an exclusive opportunity to explore the inner workings of local manufacturing operations, learn about local training programmes in trades and advanced manufacturing and gain insights into the abundant and lucrative job opportunities within the industry. Additionally, the facilitators provided the students with in-depth insights into their roles, sharing their own personal educational, training backgrounds, and recounting the journeys that led them to their careers.
Kamesha Blake, Executive Director of the JMEA, said, “Given the persistent skills shortage that hinders productivity, we believe that highlighting quality jobs in the industry during National Manufacturers’ Month, is an opportunity for us as manufacturers to proactively shape the public perception of manufacturing. With this initiative we aim to bridge the gap between companies and the next generation and address the ongoing shortage of qualified talent. By providing this exposure, we aspire to ignite the interest of the upcoming workforce, with the potential to establish a continuous stream of skilled and diverse talent to bolster the industry’s growth.”
Students toured a wide spectrum of industry-specific companies, encompassing sectors such as food and beverage, clothing and textiles, and construction. The participating companies included Caribbean Cement Company Limited, Designs by Marc, Trade Winds Citrus Limited, and Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ) Juice Plant.
Mr. McIntyre, an Upper School teacher at Jamaica College, commended the JMEA for their outstanding initiative. He expressed, “The students genuinely appreciated the valuable practical experience and exposure that allowed them to gain insights into the local manufacturing industry and the array of career opportunities it offers. This tour also unveiled career paths that were previously unknown to the students, including fields like engineering, logistics, legal professions, and business development. The tour directly complemented the students’ in-school learning, providing an incredible opportunity for them to explore manufacturing facilities and witness the entire process, from conception to completion, in the production of cement. The tour guides were both engaging and well-informed.”
Blake shared that workforce development begins far sooner than when someone lands their first job and the best way to understand the local manufacturing industry and the career opportunities it holds, is through first-hand experience and exposure. “Many individuals often view manufacturing industry roles as primarily involving manual labour. However, this industry is one of the most advanced and high tech. By showcasing the myriad opportunities and reshaping the public perception of these roles, we aim to reflect the industry’s status as one of the most cutting-edge and technologically advanced sectors.”
Marc Frankson, Operations Manager at Designs by Marc, said ” We’ve been in the fashion business for three generations as a family, so we really understand the importance of fostering the next generation of talent in Jamaica. By inviting these aspiring fashion designers to see how we work, we want to inspire and support them in following their dreams. We hope this experience will show them how a different side of the fashion industry works and motivate them to pursue their passions, which we hope will make our local fashion scene even better.
The tours provided valuable educational opportunities, allowing students to explore the wide array of skilled and lucrative manufacturing careers available right here at home. The tours also served as a conduit for students to connect with potential manufacturing employers.
Blake posited, ” As the program continues to grow, we look forward to welcoming more students in the years to come and to secure internships or full-time employment for students with an interest in the industry”.
National Manufacturers Month is observed each October on an annual basis. Its fundamental goal is to dispel prevalent misconceptions surrounding manufacturing by affording manufacturers the opportunity to provide a clear and authentic depiction of what manufacturing truly entails, as well as debunking what it is not.
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