Change Makers: 93 Inner-city students graduate in blue-water economy Skills

With the world focusing on the rising concerns around climate change, the future of development in Jamaica has shifted to promoting Blue-Water Economy skills in our job market.

On Tuesday, ninety-three (93) at-risk youth received training certification in Basic Plumbing – of which eighty-seven (87) also received certification in Advanced Leak Detection and Water Auditing through training with internationally renowned Water Audit Specialist, Dr Kala Fleming.

From left, Samantha Chantrelle, Lawrence Watson, Kamau Brown, Dr Kala Fleming, Kevon Reid, Mr Omar Sweeney (JSIF) and Minister Mike Henry conversing at the graduation ceremony.

The training programme, which is being implemented by Change Makers Limited and funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund through the World Bank’s Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) Alternative Livelihood and Skills Development (ALSD) Programme, seeks to provide upskilled training to youth seeking alternative avenues to income generation while promoting growth and improvements in people’s lives in way consistent with sustainable development.

The training programme provided training in advanced plumbing, leak detection and repairs to at-risk youth in eighteen (18) underprivileged communities across seven parishes in Jamaica.

The Blue-Water Economy moves further beyond the boundaries of our ocean and encompasses the “green economy”, with a focus on the environment, and the ‘coastal economy’, with its emphasis on complementarities among coastal and island states for sustenance and sustainable development. The conservation of water is seen as a critical element of the Blue Economy agenda.

Michael Henry addressed the students as the guest of honour quoting Robert F. Kennedy, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”

Minister Henry urged the students to continue to be the instruments of change in their lives and in others’ lives, stating that many were looking up to them to show them the path to success.

“We are all change-makers now. We must use what we have learned and improve on our skills to make a difference.”

— Denese Austin, Class Valedictorian

The JSIF/World Bank Utility Warden Project, as the training programme is dubbed, will also see these newly certified students mobilized across the communities for a three (3) months period to ensure that residents have access to plumbers with leak detection capabilities and conservation expertise. The aim is to assist the communities in avoiding high water bills associated with poor usage and or defects in the infrastructure on their side of the meters.

Mr Omar Sweeney, Executive Director of JSIF, informed the grandaunts that “This is not the end, but the beginning.” The Utility Wardens training programme started in September 2019. Students have covered such topics as measurement, types of pipes and pipe fitting and the usage of leak detection tools. While plumbing has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated career, there was a significant turn-out of women enrolled in the programme of which fifteen (15) of those students graduated today.

A proud moment for all the graduates!

In fact, the class Valedictorian, Miss Denese Austin, addressed the students in her speech stating, “We are all change-makers now. We must use what we have learned and improve on our skills to make a difference.”

In addressing the students, Samantha Chantrelle, Managing Director of Change Makers Ltd. said, “You all worked very hard, you came every day prepared to learn, to gain as much knowledge as you could to take your skills to a higher level. I know you will continue to make us proud as you move forward onto the next phase of your life and careers.”

“Water is life….Water impacts everything and it is a prerequisite for social stability.”

— Dr Kala Fleming

Dr Kala Fleming, an internationally renowned Water Auditing Specialist, provided specialized training and practicum training for two (2) weeks in October 2019 and again in December 2019 with a focus on the use of advanced technologies in water auditing and the use of A.I. to collect data. Dr Fleming will continue to work with a small cohort of students remotely over the coming months to further advance their skill sets.

Dr Kala Fleming being presented with a gift by Shaquille Lewis

Dr Fleming, who is a Caribbean native, spoke today of the necessity of approaching water conservation, “Water is life….Water impacts everything and it is a prerequisite for social stability. When water is scarce, it constrains economic growth and exacerbates key global security concerns, such as diseases, conflict and food production.”

However, Dr Fleming sees a positive side to this, “As populations increase and as the climate changes, global water challenges are only becoming more complex. Luckily though, we are in a time where we have got the data, the tools and the expertise to forge a new path forward where that can ensure water-secure communities…and if we do this right, we all thrive.”