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Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC)

In 2017 Jamaica established a new arm of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to be known as the Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC). The JNSC will target young people, aged 18 to 23, and will create an avenue for them to be fully empowered through national service. This new recruitment window will result in the drafting of approximately 700 young people, who will bring the JDFs annual intake up to 1,000. The JNSC soldiers will be remunerated accordingly, be separate in identity, and fully provided for in law.

The Jamaica Combined Cadet Force UCCF) was a uniformed training contingent founded in 1943. Funds provided by the prime minister's office covered expenses for training, uniforms, equipment, travel and subsistence, and pay of salaried personnel. JCCF operations were expanded substantially in 1972, and in 1973 the organization consisted of some 2,000 officers and cadets in 33 postprimary school units in all parts of the island, together with an independent unit and a small headquarters unit at Up Park Camp. Its mission was to provide youths with training, discipline, good citizenship, and leadership. Although not a part of the JDF, the JCCF provided a substantial reservoir of young men who had undergone some military training.

The National Service Corps (JNSC) Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on April 12, 2017. The Bill, which was piloted by Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., also formalised the Chief of Defence Staff title given to the armys Commanding Officer. The Senate passed amendments to the Defence Act on 11 May 2017.

Closing the April 12, 2017 debate on the Bill, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, reiterated that it was not the intention of the Bill to lower the recruiting requirement for the army. Those standards are maintained. What we are doing is to create another arm of the army. In the same way you have the various regiments, you have the reserves and now the national service corps, Mr. Holness said. He noted that this will now become the route through which persons become enlisted in the army. So, you will join the National Service Corps and spend one year within the corps and after that, you can choose whether or not you will sign a longer term contract with the army. Those who choose not to go on, become available to the wider society, and it would be a good recruiting ground for the police and the various emergency services, Mr. Holness explained.

Prime Minister Holness said for persons who do not meet the enrolment requirements, there are other programmes, such as the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) skills training initiative, to benefit them. We are going to augment those, so that those persons who apply but do not make the enlistment standard can apply to these programmes and be brought up to the standard, he said. In addition, Mr. Holness said there will be a pre-technology training aspect that focuses on helping persons who have insufficient subjects to qualify for the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) level training courses at the JDFs technical training institute. We are going to the lowest to ensure that they are catered to. The second is a technical training programme which facilitates persons being trained and qualified at the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NVQ-J) level two in selected construction trades. The technical and pre-technology training are in progress right now at the JDF, he noted. Attorney General, Marlene Malahoo Forte, welcomed passage of the Bill, noting that she is excited by this new opportunity that will be created for persons in her West Central St. James constituency. This Bill is a good move in the right direction. There are many young Jamaicans who are looking for new opportunities to be trained and to be taught skills they should have been taught in their homes. So, it has my support, and I am very excited for the young men and women in my constituency and I will be doing my part to encourage them to enlist when the Corps is established, Mrs. Malahoo Forte said. Senator Don Wehby, in supporting the Bill, said 11 May 2017 the initiative is very important for reaching unattached youth and to reintegrate them into society through training, employment and resocialisation. He said that for persons, who do not meet the enlistment requirements, there are other programmes and skills training initiatives, from which they can benefit. These include certified training programmes at the HEART Trust/NTA to qualify them for enlistment or to join the labour market.

Senator Wehby proposed that consideration be given to the provisional enlistment of applicants on condition that they fulfil the requirements within a certain time frame. Provisional enlistment may not be suitable for every applicant, depending on their education gap, but could work for applicants who meet a substantial portion of the requirements, he pointed out.

Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Mark Golding, also stated his support for the move to establish the JNSC. The JNSC will support the implementation of the Learn, Earn, Give back and Serve (LEGS) programme, which aims to assist young people, who, by virtue of their circumstances, have become unattached. LEGS is a part of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) initiative, targeting job and training opportunities for unattached young people aged 19 to 24.

The Jamaican Gleaner on 16 April 2017 editorialized that "... we have one issue: that the programmes, targeted at offering skill training and resocialisation, are not as expansive as they need to be to tackle the scale of the problem. Mr Holness needs to, at least, double the numbers of the youth he proposes to incorporate into the JNSC, the HEART Trust/NTA and the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, all arms of the State which could re-engineer Jamaicas social landscape."





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