…Targets unattached youth with skills training, mentorship

Excelsior Community College (ECC) Principal Philmore McCarty wants Jamaica to move away from labelling unemployed, unskilled and untrained youth as “at risk”, arguing that most of them simply lack opportunities.

Although some of the 62,200 unemployed youth recorded in 2023 across the nation are voluntarily unemployed, McCarty believes the country has still failed in reaching many with training and job opportunities that will interest them, which the institution he leads is on a mission of changing.

“Here at Excelsior, we don’t believe that the youth are at risk. We believe that the youth lack opportunity, and we are here to provide you with those opportunities,” McCarty said.

He was giving his address at the launch event for the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Power Up Community Action Project at the institution’s St Andrew campus on Tuesday.

The headmaster hailed the project as an opportunity for them to better themselves.

“This is an opportunity for you to become your best self. It is an opportunity for you to change your life’s trajectory by getting certification that can be used locally and internationally, and you’re at the right place. Why are you at the right place? Because the Excelsior Community College, over these 50 years, has proven itself to be that beacon of hope for persons,” McCarty said.

He said the community college is the only – or one of a very few – that is ISO-certified.

The JPS Power Up Community Action Project was launched in partnership with the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VM) Foundation, which opened bank accounts for each participant on Tuesday and offered them free investment advice.

The programme is designed to increase the employability and entrepreneurial capacity of unattached youth residing within identified urban communities in Kingston and St Andrew. This will take place through skills training, certification and mentorship.


This initiative is one Sophia Lewis, head of the JPS Foundation, says is not just for youth, who are classified as 35 years and under, but also older persons as well.

“It is not just a programme; it is a promise – a promise to help bridge the gap between where you are and where you dream of being. We light the path to a future that starts with us giving you the right tools, the training and the support to not only dream but to achieve,” Lewis said.

“The JPS Foundation’s mission is simple, but profound and rooted in our commitment to community empowerment, while primarily focusing on assisting youth with potential. I won’t say at-risk youth, but our youth with potential, we recognise that the power of inclusion and the potential within everyone for renewal is important, so you will observe that we have not only have our youth under 35 [years], but we have a few participants over 35 [years],” she said.

She said the Power Up Community Action Project stems from another project, which started two years ago, called Fresh Start Jamaica, which also has the United States Agency for International Development and the Planning Institute of Jamaica as partners.

For her part, Samantha Charles, CEO of the Victoria Mutual Foundation, stressed that she felt “very moved” at the launch.

“It augurs well for the participants, who are now going to be immersed within this mission, who are going to be immersed within this community, who are going to be immersed in growth, development [and] self-empowerment. With that said, it is really a pleasure and privilege for the [VM] Foundation to join efforts with the JPS Foundation to support the Power Up Community Action Project,” Charles said.

ECC Mentorship Programme1

Seated, from left: Samantha Charles, CEO of the Victoria Mutual Foundation; Sophia Lewis, head of the JPS Foundation; and Philmore McCarty, principal of the Excelsior Community College (ECC), signing a memorandum of understanding for the Power Up Community Action Project at the institution’s St Andrew campus on Tuesday. Witnessing the signing are (standing, from left) Sophia Bennett, financial services specialist, Victoria Mutual Building Society; Samora Bain, foundation officer, JPS Foundation; and Dr Zaria Malcolm Walker, vice-principal of ECC.