The Four Seasons Hotels group 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.
Four Seasons has graduated 288 apprenticeship students in the Maldives over the last 12 years, with 47 youths completing the latest program in 2013. However, only one female graduated from the scheme today during a special ceremony held in the capital Male’, while two women are enrolled in the 2014 program.
Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Regional Vice President and General Manager Armando Kraenzlin explained to Minivan News today (April 13) that the number of female apprenticeship program participants has been declining over the last 10 years.
“We never had many participants – 5 to 7 per batch – but it used to be easier [to recruit women] about ten years ago. Unfortunately, numbers have dropped,” he said.
Kraenzlin said he believed the declining number of women in the training program could be the result of more jobs being available outside of the tourism sector, or parents hesitating to let their daughters work at resorts.
“We are talking to government ministries and the press to promote idea of ladies working,” he added.
Also present at today’s ceremony, Education Minister Dr Asim Ahmed told Minivan News that he believed female participation in the tourism sector and Four Seasons apprenticeship program was increasing.
“Last year’s program had one woman, whereas two are enrolled in the 2014 batch. This is gradual improvement, although much less than we would like,” he said.
The small, insular Maldivian island environment instills very close family ties, which makes it difficult for parents to allow their children to leave and “stay long periods in a hotel”, according to Ahmed.
“The culture here is for children to grow up and grow old in same house,” he claimed.
“In the Maldives, you go to work [at a resort] and live there. It’s a very difficult thing to get your head around.”
Ahmed explained the nationwide need for women and parents to be more aware about the conditions of female employees working at resorts, particularly in terms of accommodation arrangements.
“It is important parents buy into this and believe resort work is beneficial and reliable [for their daughters]. The other challenge is we have to provide child care and other facilities that will release the women to go and work,” he added.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told Minivan News that he believed women were not participating in the industry because families were adhering to the “past culture” of keeping children at home, in addition to being concerned about where their children would be living.
“Females are leaders in the houses. The men go out to work,” said Adheeb.
“Kids grow up and take care of their parents. In many cases, when boys get married they go to the girl’s house to live, because parents like to keep their daughters with them.
“This is why especially parents don’t want their daughters to go and work,” Adheeb added.
Earlier this year, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that he believed a “radical change to the tourism approach” was needed in the country.
“Resorts must have close-by islands with flats so employees can go home to their families [after completing their shifts],” Hamid said.
Additionally, he believed the response rate for tourism training programs was decreasing in the country because Maldivian parents were discouraging children from participating due to “religious xenophobia”.
Hamid also accused the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) of propagating the view that “anyone who is not a Muslim is an enemy”.
“I’ll probably be the next Dr Afrasheem Ali for saying this, but maintaining this hate of the ‘other’ is very dangerous and not discussed openly. This confusion has to be sorted. It’s a race against time and ideas,” he stated.
Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Adbulla was not responding to calls at time of press.
Public vs private programs
During the graduation ceremony for this year’s apprentice trainees held at Mandhu College in Male’ today, Kraenzlin praised the skills of the latest batch of participants, emphasizing that “the Maldivian work ethic is among the highest I’ve observed in my career”.
“It is very exciting to see what a well spent year can do in the life of a young person,” he added.
“Training young people requires commitment and resources. Resorts taking in the minimum number of apprentices a year and certifying them successfully should be supported, recognized and incentivised,” Kraenzlin said.
“We encourage govt to promote Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) performance objectives much more aggressively. It’s a great system. In this way hundreds of vocational training positions can be created. We think it’s not that difficult.”
Tourism Minister Adheeb and Education Minister Ahmed also both praised the apprenticeship program for its development of young people in the Maldives.
“This corporate social responsibility effort takes a big burden from the government to the private sector,” stated Adheeb, during his commencement speech.
“All other resorts and general managers should follow the example of Armando [Kraenzlin] and the Four Seasons,” he added.
Minister Ahmed echoed these sentiments stating, “this is an important program for the rest of the tourism industry to emulate”.
Additionally, both ministers mentioned the STEP program, a training and education initiative launched this January for ‘O’ level graduates as part of a collaborative endeavor between the Education Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sport. Some 15 partner resorts are also included in the scheme, according to the Education Ministry.
The year long Four Seasons Apprenticeship program was recognized 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.