Since its inception, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) Foundation has focused primarily on empowering Jamaicans through education, inspired by Michael Lee-Chin’s vision to see every child have access to a tertiary level education.
To this end, it has contributed over JM$1.5 billion to education initiatives including scholarships and grants, CSEC bursaries, laptops, math curriculum enhancement etc, which has benefited over 250,000 Jamaicans.
In 2016, the foundation’s focus on education began to take a pivot, with the launch of its ICON Scholarships to support students studying computer science, animation, and other careers viewed as ‘non-traditional’ but increasingly important to the economy.
In 2018, it added IT as one of its qualifying subjects for CSEC bursaries and in 2019, it launched the NCB ICON Lab in partnership with the OAS/Trust for Americas and MICO to equip at-risk youth with digital, entrepreneurial and life-skills training.
“With the onset of the pandemic, the need for digital talent to accelerate Jamaica’s digital transformation became even more apparent. We launched the Level Up Grant programme in 2020 to provide grants for short term digital courses to Jamaicans who became unemployed due to the pandemic. These beneficiaries went on to earn over US$100,000 by offering services online such as virtual transcription and copywriting. This demonstrated the massive opportunities for young people to earn a living, even without a tertiary level education, by enhancing their digital skills,” shared foundation chair, Thalia Lyn.
“For this reason, we have decided to stay true to our passion for empowering Jamaicans through education, but with a specific focus on areas that can prepare our young people for the future of work and enable them to power Jamaica’s own much needed digital transformation,” she added.
The NCB Foundation has set a bold aspiration to play a pivotal role in accelerating the digital transformation of Jamaica by expanding the island’s pool of digital producers.
Its tertiary and secondary scholarships and grants will be primarily focused on software development/engineering, user experience design, robotics/biotech engineering, animation/video game development, cybersecurity, data science, analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
In addition, the foundation will support programmes such as coding, robotics, animation and gaming boot camps at the primary school level and continue its NCB ICON and Level Up Grant programmes to support the upskilling of Jamaicans who may not have access to secondary or tertiary level education. The focus on developing digital skills will be supported by life skills training in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, communication, problem solving and conflict resolution.
“We seek to empower Jamaicans to learn, earn and make a difference in our society so we will continue to support Jamaicans who desire to improve themselves, but also build their communities. To this end, we have earmarked J$100M this year for scholarships and grants in the priority areas. While our focus on digital education represents a slight strategic shift, we remain true to our commitment to education and our organisation’s purpose of Empowering People. Unlocking Dreams. Building Communities,” said CEO Nadeen Matthews Blair in closing.
The NCB Foundation said it looks forward to partnering with local and international organisations to make this bold aspiration a reality.