Donte Cunningham Delays Dream to Study Plumbing

    JN Group

    A conversation with his father about various career options led 18-year-old Donte Cunningham to delay his dream of pursuing a career in the sciences and instead focus on learning a skill to gain a competitive edge in the job market.

    The Priory, St Ann native is a Level Two plumbing student at the Ocho Rios Baptist Church Skills Training Centre. The plumbing programme was started in 2021 by the church in partnership with the Rotary Club of Ocho Rios and currently caters to 15 students. It’s capacity to facilitate the students was boosted by the Ocho Rios chapter of the JN Circle, a network of JN members and customers, which helped in 2022 to refurbish the container used as the training facility.

    Prior to leaving high school, the St Mary High alum had set his sights on a career in chemical engineering. However, he decided to delay that dream last year when, on the advice of his father, he decided to study plumbing.

    “My dad told me that it was good to have a skill because it would mean I would have a job if other career paths were not working out for me,” he said. “I thought about it and decided that it was something I should do. I enrolled here after my father and other family members told me that it was implemented for young people in the parish who wanted to learn or become certified in certain skills.”

    Donte’s father, Paul, who is a teacher, said he encouraged his son to consider a vocation because of the employment opportunities it could present.

    “A skill is a good thing for youngsters to have but many are shying away from it,” said the elder Cunningham. “I wanted my son to have a skill because of where the world is heading. I wanted him to be prepared and be flexible in case his career wasn’t working out, he could have another job option where there is a demand.”

    He added: “When I learned about the skills training at Ocho Rios Baptist Church, I encouraged him to sign up. I am proud of him because he is determined to do well.”

    Donte, who has a passion for the sciences, started learning plumbing in January and has found the experience rewarding.

    “We’re currently doing Levels 1 and 2 which means the schedule has been hectic. However, I am enjoying it because I am learning about the different aspects of the profession. It has also helped me to clear up some of the misconceptions about plumbing such as it being easy to do and that it is just about repairing leaking pipes,” he said.

    “My classmates and I believe that there can be improvements when it comes to more equipment and giving us a larger space, but my time here so far has been good,” he added.

    Donte chose plumbing because he believed that there was a greater demand for plumbers than many other areas.

    “I decided that plumbing would be the right choice for me because I realised that there were a lot of people doing electrical installation and repairs and not a lot of plumbers. Jamaica currently has a demand for plumbers, and I decided that I would choose that area,” he explained.

    He intends to attain the highest certification possible.

    “I was told that Level 4 was the highest certification that you can attain from the HEART Trust/NSTA for plumbing, and I have already made my mind up to go the distance because I want to be competent in all areas,” he revealed.

    Vivette Edwards, coordinator for the HEART Programme at the Ocho Rios Baptist Church Skills Centre, explained that since the plumbing certification course began in 2021, many of the enrolled youngsters have done well in their academics.

    “The students are young. They are interested in the disciplines and are very bright. You have many of our young men enrolling. Many of them see the value of having a skill as a good way to remain relevant and they are serious about their education. Donte is one of those students who is bright as well as articulate,” she said.

    Arlene Henry, deacon and administrator at the Ocho Rios Baptist Church, said the programme was developed as part of the church’s mission to empower individuals.

    “One of the missions of the church is to empower individuals, be a presence in the community and offer persons who are less fortunate or who may be at risk, an opportunity to learn hands-on skills to assist themselves and to navigate life. There has been a lot of interest from young persons and sometimes we don’t have enough space. So, we are happy that the skills centre is fulfilling its mission,” she said.

    Claudine Allen, general manager, JN Foundation, explained that the interest displayed by Donte and his peers to become certified in a skill was at the heart of the JN Foundation’s steadfast commitment to enriching lives and building strong, resilient communities across Jamaica. The JN Foundation oversees the JN Circle, which was integral to the revitalization of training centre.

    “The JN Circle comprises JN members and customers in all 14 parishes of Jamaica, and parts of the United Kingdom and Canada who, by leveraging the JN brand and network, serve as advocates and community change agents to improve lives and positively impact their communities,” explained Ms Allen.

    “Our mission is to empower individuals, foster social inclusion, and create sustainable development that benefits all Jamaicans. Through our various programmes and initiatives, we strive to address critical issues such as education, health, economic empowerment, and community development. We are proud that Donte has demonstrated an interest in acquiring a skill, and we wish him nothing but success,” she said.

    Last year, Donte graduated from the St Mary High School where he studied the sciences. He was successful in four CSEC subjects and is currently doing re-sits in two more. Although he aspires to earn his plumbing certification, he is not giving up on his dream of a career in chemical engineering.

    “I still want to go back to school, and I am considering doing that because I still have a passion for the sciences, and chemical engineering is the area I am most curious about. However, I definitely will be going all the way in terms of learning the skill of plumbing.”

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