An initial cohort of 30 young persons from Kingston will benefit under a driver-training programme aimed at transforming them into professional public transportation agents.

Recruited through the Government’s Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme, the youngsters will be undertaking 25 one-hour lessons for the next two months.

The driver-training programme, which is being undertaken in collaboration with the Transport Authority and the HEART Trust/NTA, was officially launched during a ceremony held at the Maxfield Avenue offices of the Ministry of Transport and Mining on Tuesday (February 4).

The sessions, which begin next week Wednesday (February 12) will include defensive driving lessons as well as lessons on ensuring public passenger safety. The programme will also impart other skills that will enhance the employability of the participants.

In his remarks, portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, said a key aim of the programme is to enhance the professionalism within the public transportation sector.

“Over time, we will have a pool of certified professional transport agents who will be able to safely carry your children and yourself about your business. We have to be more professional as we look at [improving] this industry,” he said.

As an added incentive, Minister Montague noted that every trainee under the programme will receive $1,000 per day of instruction.

“So every day of instruction, they get $1,000 if they turn up…that is to help with bus fare and lunch. That is why we are going to be putting persons in their parish where they live. So, they don’t have to travel far to [participate in] the programme,” he said.

The Minister argued that with this initiative, along with ongoing and new measures to reform the transport sector, “we are determined to bring order to the public passenger industry”.

He further noted that the driver-training programme will also assist in addressing the shortage of drivers within the public passenger industry, and to encourage more persons to pursue driving as a viable career path.

The Minister said that the intention is to initially train 30 persons in every parish, with a few more individuals being selected for larger parishes.

Upon completion of the programme in the first week of April, another batch of participants will be prepared from St. Catherine.

During the function, five participants who did not possess driver’s licences and successfully completed their mandatory road code test, were provided with their provisional licences.

The driver-training programme is being delivered by instructors from the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), a member of the JN Group.

The HOPE Programme is a training and apprenticeship initiative that provides an avenue for the development of unattached youth between 18 and 24 years old.

Under the HOPE programme, participants are required to take part in mandatory core training, inclusive of life skills, good citizenship, work ethics, discipline, volunteerism and entrepreneurship skills.

Following that, they are engaged in specific skills training and serve as apprentices, where they will be allowed to work in that skill area for a stipend with a savings component.