Training troubles - Operator defends unregistered school as former students voice tales of woe
When Jermaine Beckford signed up at the A1 Training Institute to get certified as a security guard, he had no idea that when he completed his course his certificate would be useless.
But Beckford, like many others who have completed courses at the Corporate Area-based training institute, has found that his certificate is not recognised, and while the operator of the entity is adamant that it is above board and legitimate, there is no record of A1 Training course being recognised by any of the education bodies.
When The Sunday Gleaner checked with the Ministry of Education we were told that while the building was registered, the ministry had no input as it relates to the courses/curriculum taught.
"We checked to see if it has suitability of space, enough chairs and things like that, but not the courses, per se. So when persons call we tell them to do their due diligence, we recommend that they find institutions that are affiliated with City and Guilds, and other recognised examining bodies in order to ensure that their certification can be utilised elsewhere," said Sharon Hunt, registrar of the Independent Schools Unit in the ministry.
The City and Guilds representative office in Jamaica also indicated that A1 Institute was not registered with it. The school was also not registered with the University Council of Jamaica or the HEART Trust/NTA.
But operator of the training institute, Julia Morris, told The Sunday Gleaner that it is impossible for the entity to not be accredited.
"How can it not be recognised and it is registered with the Ministry of Education? So from you registered the school then the courses have to be recognised," argued Morris.
She also downplayed that fact the institute is advertised as one which provides HEART Trust/NTA accreditation but is not certified with that body.
"Of course, I'm not fully registered, but I keep telling them that they will earn their certificate still because I'm partnering with other schools. We have never said we are certified, we said you will earn your HEART certificate," declared Morris.
But that is not enough for Beckford, who said he saw an advertisement for the school in 2013 and went to the Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, complex to get registered. He alleged that Morris told him the course would cost him $15,000 plus $1,500 for the certificate after he completed the one-month course.
"I was 21 at the time and I was told that I would have to be 25 to get a job as a security guard, so I found another job in the meantime. When I reached 25, I took my certificate and went to look a job at King Alarm. When I went there, the man doing the interview told me they didn't recognise it as a valid certificate," Beckford told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said when he tried to seek clarification from Morris he could not find her as the school was no longer operating at the Half-Way Tree address.
According to Beckford, while attending the school, he didn't have a teacher but he received study guides and he did exams, plus there were five other students doing the course so he didn't think anything was out of the norm.
"I wasn't thinking that this is a scam thing, because the Government would must know about it, because the lady a operate in the open," said Beckford, who is now unemployed.
Last week when a Sunday Gleaner reporter visited the school, which is now operating on Waltham Park Road, she was told that it would cost $40,000 for a three-month childcare course at the school plus $10,000 for the registration fee, which would cover the cost of the uniform.
"You will get the school certificate that is included in your course, but you will need to pay for your HEART exam separate and your certificate because this is a private institution," said Morris.
She assured the reporter that at the end of the course the school would provide a certificate to say the participants in the course were HEART Trust/NTA-certified and there would be no problem using it to get a job.
"Because we are fully registered with the Ministry of Education, so the diploma that you earn here is great, it takes you anywhere. The HEART exam, when you finish it and it's complete, it will say, I then your name, certified in childcare, and it shows that it is HEART you get everything from.
"As I said, this is a private institution and our student are certified by HEART," said Morris between answering calls from persons wanting direction to the school.
She added that all the exams, including the one from HEART, would be done at the school. However, a former student told our reporter that she did not receive a certificate after she completed the course as she was told she needed to go to a HEART institution to do the exam.
According to the former student, it has been two years since she has been waiting for a date to do the exam and the principal has stopped answering her calls.
When this was put to Morris, she said the former student was not being honest as she answers all calls and everybody knows where to find her.