Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ)
Speaking the language of business
Business View Caribbean interviews Dr. Velton Gooden, Executive Director of Bureau of Standards Jamaica, for our focus on Economic Growth & Development
In its basic essence, a standard is an agreed way of doing something and can apply to goods, services, or systems. Standards ensure safety, quality, and consistency and are fundamental to trade. The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) is the national organization responsible for the development, adaptation, revision, and adoption of standards in Jamaica and encourages the usage of these standards by various stakeholders.
Dr. Velton Gooden, Executive Director of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica shares, “In line with the public sector transformation project, which the government is pursuing under the World Bank led initiative, they have been creating a new national quality infrastructure for Jamaica. As part of this international framework that governs the trade of countries, we in Jamaica had to establish a national quality infrastructure with four basic pillars on which it stands. Three of the pillars – the creation of standards; conformity assessment (testing & certification services); and metrology (the science of measurement) – are housed at the Bureau of Standards. The fourth pillar is accreditation, which is covered by JANAAC (Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation).
A new mission, vision, and priorities have been created around achieving the BSJ’s mandate of being a facilitator of business. The Bureau of Standards Jamaica vision is to be the premier customer-focused and technology-driven organization leading the development of the national and regional culture of quality. To achieve that, the Bureau of Standards promotes the international competitiveness of Jamaican producers, facilitates business development and trade, and supports consumer protection by providing standardization, metrology, testing, certification, and training services through visionary leadership, consultations, teamwork, and a committed and motivated workforce. That is the mission statement.
The BSJ have identified four priority areas of focus in line with those mission and vision statements. According to Dr. Gooden, “Recognizing that MSMEs (micro, small, medium sized enterprises) are really the drivers of GDP growth, there is a lot of focus on how we can develop smaller businesses. So our first priority area is facilitating a strong MSME sector. We have a number of initiatives to enable this. For example, we have partnered with the Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association (JMEA) and renewed an MOU with them.”
Through this MOU, companies aligned with JMEA are able to receive certain discounts on services from the BSJ. Dr. Gooden adds, “We also signed a similar MOU with Jamaica Agro Processors Association (JAPA). Last October, we launched a client services program, where MSMEs can contact the BSJ and tell us what they’re trying to achieve. They might be interested in export or developing a new product or testing and we can direct them to where they can get those services, whether at the BSJ or at a sister agency.”
The second area of priority is supporting recovery and resilience of MSMEs and other entities. Throughout the COVID-19 period, many businesses throughout Jamaica have been devastated by the pandemic and are just now starting to recover. In that regard, the BSJ have initiated several activities, including the client services program, to help these businesses begin the process of growing the economy again.
The third area is in line with the primary BSJ mandate – driving the regional culture of quality and promoting a national quality culture. Dr. Gooden explains, “We know that without the proper quality management systems in place, not only within government bodies but also within companies that are providing products or services, you cannot trade and be competitive internationally. So the BSJ has been promoting the use of quality in business throughout Jamaica and even within government bodies. Last year, through the National Certification Body of Jamaica (NCBJ), we helped to certify 10 government agencies, including the Tax Administration Services of Jamaica, Jamaica Customs, the Passport & Immigration Citizens Agency and a number of others. By driving efficiency, quality, and productivity throughout the government agencies, we feel it will improve the overall service offered to Jamaicans and those who want to do business with Jamaica.”
The fourth area is helping Jamaica to transform to a digitally enabled economy. The BSJ have been diligent in transforming their processes to be digitally orientated. For example, business can now be done with the Bureau through their ecommerce platform and they are now working with other government agencies and small businesses to help them in this transformation.
“One of the primary ways we interact with companies that are involved in trading is the use of standards,” says Dr. Gooden. “Those can be procured on our ecommerce platform, where you can purchase and download those standards to become familiar with what is required to access a particular area of trade in the country. Our training services are also available online, as well as some of our products. You can also come directly into the Bureau of Standards and our customer service unit will sit with you, take your information, and channel you to where you can get that service. We even have a new software program with an app called the BSJME. You can register on that app and tell us what you want and we can direct you to the service you need.”
During COVID, many Jamaican companies were just thinking about survival, let alone growth. According to Dr. Gooden, “Things like meeting the requirements of a quality management system were kind of on the back burner. However, now that companies are emerging out of the pandemic they want to grow again. So they recognize the need for food safety and quality management systems, in order to allow them to trade not only in Jamaica, but regionally, and in some cases internationally. As the provider of these types of services, we have been inviting them to partner with us to achieve their objectives.”
There are currently about 180 persons on staff at the BSJ. As a specialized organization, employees develop in-depth subject knowledge. A metrologist for example is a very specialized area of science that’s not generally even taught in universities. So when they come to an institution like the BSJ, which is a national standards body aligned with ISO and ASTM and other international agencies, they learn metrology and so it is very important that the Bureau of Standards retain that talent once it has been developed.
Dr. Gooden attests, “We have some of the best engineers, chemists, scientists, and microbiologists in the country and regionally. Most people who come to the bureau, we have to train to be specialized and competent in the area that they serve. I joined the BSJ team about 30 years ago as one of their senior chemists and then I left and was involved with some of Jamaica’s major companies like GraceKennedy and in more recent times with the CB Group. I have a unique competence in understanding the technical side, as well as the business side and what it takes to get into the export market and expand that market. So I’m helping them to speak the language of business, and as a result they are inclined to come to us because we understand their needs and we have access to get technical services delivered to them.”
As the markets reopen, tourism – one of Jamaica’s biggest earners of foreign exchange – is doing well. But behind tourism, a lot of services are needed. The food supplied to the hotels, the craft work, and many other types of products and services help to make a vibrant industry. So the BSJ create the standards and help to train the people to meet those requirements. “There is also a lot of import substitution taking place, because Jamaica imports roughly $1 billion (U.S.) worth of food annually,” Dr. Gooden reports. “And with the challenges caused by the war between Ukraine and Russia, food security is a big issue. So local farmers and agro processors must meet stringent food safety requirements in order to supply the hotels that usually get products easily from abroad. We are training local agro processors to use the food safety standards and produce at an equivalent level of quality and safety to supply these hotels directly.”
In the next three to five years, Dr. Gooden would definitely like the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to be top of mind as a facilitator and enabler of business. He shares, “I’d like us to be the go-to agency when you think of expanding your business, creating a new product, getting it into a market… because we provide all of these services. I’d also like to see more integration with some of the different entities like JMEA, JAPA, and others, and also with our sister agencies like JAMPRO, that brings new businesses to Jamaica. The BSJ has so much potential.”
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AT A GLANCE
Bureau of Standards Jamaica
What: Statutory body for the facilitation of trade, training, and conformity assessment.
Where: Kingston, Jamaica