The Maldives National University (MNU) Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies (FHTS) in partnership with the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) launched a collaborative training academy on May 29 to develop participating students’ skills and improve their employment prospects.
The IHG Academy is a collaborative program between the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, an IHG hotel, and MNU, in association with the government of Maldives STEP program.
The 13 students participating in the first IHG Academy batch will complete six months of training before graduating on December 31, 2013. They will arrive at the Holiday Inn Kandooma Resort on June 11 to begin training.
“This is the first step of a long sustainable program,” Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma General Manager Chris Batterham told Minivan News today.
He explained the initial batch of hospitality students will gain experience in all the resort’s departments.
“The training program started in England in 2012, but now it has expanded worldwide, and we thought we should definitely start the program in the Maldives and partner with a local educational institute,” Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Training Manager Sander Smits told Minivan News.
“MNU has a lot of faculty departments, and although we’re starting with hospitality, our future ambition is to open the program to students from all departments,” Smits said.
“It will help young people gain knowledge and increase their chance of finding employment. This program trains and develops future talent as well as gives something back to the community,” he added.
“Each IHG Academy is uniquely tailored to continuously evolve around the needs of the local community and hotels,” said Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Human Resources Director Shahid Hussain.
Through this academy “FHTS students will undertake Certificate 3 courses in housekeeping, food and beverage, kitchen, and front office,” he continued.
“The second academy batch, which will begin in January 2014, will have the opportunity to not only receive a training certificate, but complete diplomas and degree levels as well,” Hussain added.
The only female participant in the program, Ana Naseem, is equally excited and nervous to begin her front office internship, she told Minivan News.
Naseem explained that her parents understand “this is a first step” and support her choice to pursue hospitality work, a “stable” career choice.
“Girls don’t go to resorts to work because their parents generally don’t understand what resort life is really like. They are not aware,” Naseem said.
“It is who you are and the choices you make, not the place you go to, which spoils you. You make your own decisions,” she added.
Tourism industry challenges
During the launch ceremony, FHTS lecturer Anil Adam both thanked the IHG for “this wonderful, socially responsible, and generous initiative” which addresses some of the serious challenges faced by the hospitality industry.
“I wish all the resorts would make a similar effort to follow the InterContinental Hotels Group in this regard, and needless to say few resorts are attempting to conduct [training] initiatives, but the numbers are appallingly low,” said Adam.
“The partnership with the IHG Academy would become truly fruitful if we would be able to exchange both talents and expertise in what we hope to be a mutually beneficial endeavor for both of our institutions,” he added.
Adam addressed some the the specific challenges faced by both the hospitality industry, as well as MNU’s FHTS which is trying to address these issues.
“As tourism contributes enormously to our GDP, we are in need of a trained workforce to remain competitive in this industry, which is an imperative of the incumbent government,” he noted.
“[Establishing] the FHTS was one such initiative by the then-government to develop competent employees to fill the vacancies in this industry.”
“Today one of the challenges that FHTS faces is the lack of resources needed to produce potential employees for the global brands that exist in the Maldivian tourism industry,” Adam continued.
“One of the biggest challenges the Maldives is facing today is the lack of knowledgeable persons to drive our economy to the next level,” he lamented.
“It is regrettable to note that when comparing our industry with that of the developed world, our tourism industry is still not knowledge driven.”
“The pivotal change needed to make the most of this industry is usable research into the industry itself. The vacuum of knowledge that exists is the true reason why we do not have a single local brand operating internationally,” he said.
“The Maldives National University cannot function alone to bring about the sustainable development to the tourism industry. It requires collaboration from the government of Maldives, industry stakeholders, and also international bodies,” Adam concluded.
Other training initiatives
The year-long Four Seasons Apprenticeship program was recognised as the Maldives’ first government accredited TVET certified apprenticeship scheme in 2010. Graduates are able to earn TVET, PADI divemaster, or Ministry of Transportation boat driving license certifications, the hospitality company claimed.
The Four Seasons Hotels group has graduated 288 students from their apprenticeship program in the Maldives over the last 12 years, with 47 youths completing the latest program in 2013.
Four Seasons has encouraged the government to promote technical and vocational training “much more aggressively”, while also expressing concern at declining female participation over the last decade in its apprenticeship program.