Keith Duncan, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and co-chair of Project STAR says that one of the solutions to Jamaica’s economic and social problems is to invest in its people through a programme of inclusiveness, collaboration and a shared vision.
He made the suggestion while addressing the Global Leadership Summit on Thursday, November 17, where he was among eight distinguished speakers addressing 135 countries worldwide.
“Only through the investment in our people and communities we will unleash that potential and achieve an inclusive, equitable, sustainable and prosperous society,” he pointed out.
Turning to the latest initiative created by the PSOJ in partnership with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Project STAR, Duncan said that the initiative is a scalable effort that will solve the problems as a country; at the community level while unearthing the potential of the people.
“Most importantly it’s owned and driven by the people within communities. Project STAR and all our partners work with community members to implement their ideas, their solutions based on the needs they have identified for themselves,” he noted.
The PSOJ president said that a significant pillar of Project STAR is an economic transformation where the private sector businesses that have a need for workers will provide jobs for members of the targeted communities that have high levels of unemployment.
“Many of the unemployed in the communities are not job ready and require psychosocial intervention, life skills training and also training in how to function in a structured work environment on top of which technical skills can be layered,” he informed.
Duncan, who is also the CEO of JMMB Group, said that while the employment needs are being addressed within these spaces, there needs to be a total reversal of the educational gaps for the people. He said this can be achieved with greater reallocation of resources from vocational training, where there is a significant spend on remedial education, to early childhood and primary education where a solid foundation can be provided for the nation’s children.
“Economic growth in Jamaica is limited by the shortfall of a trained and educated workforce. We cannot begin to address the low productivity, low standard of living and the social problems of our country without making this shift in education,” he emphasised.
“We must break the cycle by disrupting education at the foundation level to prepare our young people for higher education and gain value-added skillsets where everyone can earn higher incomes,” he affirmed.
The Project STAR co- chair said that through the social and economic transformation initiatives undertaken by Project STAR the outcome will be safer, secure, and more prosperous communities which will translate into a sustainable reduction in violence and crime.
“I am convinced that the only way we will do this is if we pull the whole-of-society to Project STAR and collaborate within and outside of the target communities to create sustained change,” he said.
He informed that the response to Project STAR has been positive so far with the communities, businesses, those in the Diaspora, in government is being receptive to the “whole-of-society model” and are preparing to roll up their sleeves and get involved in making a difference.
“In fact, in less than one year of sharing the vision with Jamaica’s private sector we have secured more than 80 per cent of the amount targeted from our large corporate companies over the five-year span of the project,” he disclosed.
“Based on the positive energy generated from Project STAR we are confident that we will have the same level of success with our Diaspora crowdfunding and our listing on the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange.”