The Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) is offering considerable tuition discounts and new certification programs in an effort to prepare for a boom in employment opportunities.
Stuart Bowe, the president of the BHA, said the latest initiatives continue to look at the training process as a continuum, whereby young children, college students, potential workers and current employees are all developed in tandem towards one common goal.
“The Baha Mar project adds a sense of urgency to what we need to do to ensure our industry and our people are prepared to take advantage of the many opportunities which our industry will present in short order,” Bowe said. “All stakeholder partners recognize that this collaboration must be strengthened even more so, with the opportunities which now are in front of us.”
One such opportunity for BHA member companies and their employees is significant tuition discounts with Kaplan University and the American Public University System.
Bowe said these online universities are offering 35-to-50 percent reductions on tuition.
“They have certificate courses and degrees in a range of tourism-related subject areas as well as programs in all of the basic business areas – marketing, management, accounting and human resources,” he added.
The online programs, Bowe said, are ideal for working Bahamians and those living on the Family Islands because they provide such flexibility.
Another recent BHA partnership is with the American Hotel and Lodging Education Institute (AHLEI).
Known as a leader in providing certification in the tourism industry, Bowe said this relationship will not only allow them to “refine and develop” more skilled professions, but also target younger students through AHLEI’s various programs.
Bowe told The Guardian Business that the BHA is seeking to update their tourism programs in high schools and establish a Tourism Academy at CC Sweeting High school.
“Students will need to take an exam upon completion, and in attaining a certification, they will have a leg up on other students, having demonstrated a base of understanding for the industry and employer expectations,” he said.
“This will help them secure employment and jumpstart their career.”
These new initiatives from the BHA join a variety of existing programs to help train industry professionals and promote employment.
Last year, between January and June, almost 600 young students went through the Junior Hotelier Program.
In the past six years, the BHA has presented 81 scholarships valued at $287,000 to study at the Culinary and Hospitality Institute at The College of The Bahamas, as well as some of the leading hospitality schools in the world, including Florida International University, Johnson & Wales and the Culinary Institute of America.
Although the Baha Mar opening is still years away, Robert Sands, senior vice president of government and external affairs, said these steps are necessary to ensure the workforce is ready for opportunities in the future.
He said more than 1,000 jobs have been created so far through the construction phase, with thousands more anticipated as the opening of the $3.4 billion project inches forward.
“Our Baha Mar Service and Training Academy will be the conduit through which we prepare people,” he said.
“It will formalize the training and equipment for them to gain certain skills, and allow us to create a bank
“It will formalize the training and equipment for them to gain certain skills, and allow us to create a bank of individuals through which our brands can make selections for future employment. We are trying to be proactive in giving people the skills so they’re available for hiring – both now and later.”
The training has already begun, Sands added, with the first graduation courses complete in areas such as carpentry, masonry, dry wall and plumbing. The graduates, who had to be unemployed, were invited to submit applications to the company.
Sands said training and hiring is now an ongoing process.
“We believe it will be good for Bahamians and for the economy,” he said. “But most significantly, it will create employment opportunities in the long-term. Jobs created through construction is one thing, but the long-term, operational employment are very important.”
The Nassau Guardian