THE HEART Trust/NTA was established in 1982 by former Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga. In a bid to satisfy the demand for solutions to the persistent problem of underdevelopment in the country, Seaga, during the Budget Debate on April 22, 1982, announced that one of his priorities was that of creating a skills-training and employment programme for Jamaicans.
The HEART programme was intended to provide vocational training across the island, which, in the long run, would have equipped Jamaican workers with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for higher levels of productivity.
The blueprint of the Trust estimated that 4,000 young people who had passes in GCE and JSCE would have been afforded an opportunity to indulge in skill-based programmes. HEART first came into being at an inaugural meeting on July 23, 1982. That meeting was hosted by Seaga with the leadership of Dr Joyce Robinson, Steadley Webster, Dr Winsome Gordon, Quince Francis, Gloria Priestly, Ronan Critchlow, Leonard Henry, Lionel Robinson, G R Kirkpatrick, Leon Gordon, J.E.N Stephens, Geoff Messado, George Phillips, Mike Fennell, Henry Lowe, and Geoffrey Brown. Dr Robinson was later appointed managing director, and Webster was appointed chairman of HEART.
In August, Seaga tabled the HEART Act of 1982 in the House of Representatives, aimed at reducing unemployment and, on September 1, 1982, the HEART Act became effective. The preparations for this Government-spearheaded institute came to a climax on November 4, 1982 the HEART Programme was officially launched at the National Arena. By January 1984, the success of the programme resulted in the opening of HEART’s first Academy – Stony Hill Academy, now a campus in the HEART Eastern TVET Institute. The academy started with 150 trainees and began offering courses in stenography, typing, accounts, book-keeping, data and word processing, production and stock control. The School of Cosmetology, now the HEART College of Beauty Services, was also opened in January 1984.
Following these events, HEART’s widely-respected training facilities such as, the Ebony Park Academy was launched in 1987. The Portmore HEART Academy (now the HEART College of Construction Services) for Building Skills was opened on February 18, 1985. Garmex Academy for Apparel Skills started in December 1986. The Runaway Bay HEART Academy (now the HEART College of Hospitality Services) for Resort Skills was officially opened in November 1987.
Since then, HEART has evolved in numerous ways. To date, more than 613,000 individuals have been trained and over 254,000 certified by the National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET). These certified professionals now serve scores of organisations at different spectrums within the hierarchies of international, medium and small businesses.
The HEART Trust/NTA has reshaped and restructured their mandate in several ways and now boasts 28 HEART institutions, over 80 Community Training Intervention (CTI) programmes, numerous nationwide partnerships and special projects in the sectors of hospitality, wellness and beauty services, construction services, automotive services, creative arts, agriculture and ecological sciences, information and communication technology.
Within the last five years, the Trust has forged additional partnerships with local and international partners, introduced new programmes, signed memoranda of understanding with various stakeholders, and launched HEART Workforce Colleges and TVET institutes.