COB introduces certificate courses, while BHTA begins ‘major overhaul’ in high schools
The College of The Bahamas (COB) and the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) are rolling out specialized programs to help solve a perceived skills shortage.
Following the introduction of a pilot certificate program in basic culinary skills, tourism leaders in the private sector hope similar programs will be embraced by Bahamians and help reduce unemployment.
Stuart Bowe, the president of BHTA, said that graduates of the new culinary certificate program are now doing internships in leading hotels.
"It is our hope that all of them will secure employment shortly as a result of their training," he explained.
Meanwhile, COB and BHTA have designed a number of other certificate courses, such as bartending, food service, management and other high-demand areas.
COB is accepting applications for these new courses through the institution's Continuing Education and Extension Services division, according to the BHTA.
The new certificate programs are an important element in a renewed focus to bolster skills in the Bahamian workforce. In recent months, the issue of skills have come to the forefront amid heated debates concerning work permits and the government’s immigration policy. Top private sector employers have become increasingly vocal on a perceived skills shortage.
Baha Mar exclusively told Guardian Business that it would be "hard pressed" to fill the thousands of jobs opening up when the $3.5 billion mega resort opens in December 2014.
George Markantonis, the president and managing director of Atlantis, told this newspaper that it has 200 to 300 job openings at any one time. He said that the Paradise Island resort struggles with a "skills shortage" on a daily basis.
While the mega resorts have their own in-house "universities", greater collaboration between institutions such as COB and government-run schools is required, according to Bowe.
To establish greater technical training, he said that a broader foundation must be created for young people. Students require better education in numeracy, literacy and problem solving, which eventually leads to superior soft skills such as responsibility and a positive work ethic.
"In most areas of our industry, technical skills and past experience, particularly for entry-level positions, are secondary considerations. Strong soft skills are paramount. We must consider the work ethic of the candidate for hire and their ability to communicate, build relationships, make decisions and engage and relate to others in a professional manner," the BHTA said.
The tourism body went on to describe its multi-faceted approach to training and education.
Development efforts begin at the primary school level, Bowe said, where students are exposed to tourism through the Junior Hotelier Program. This initiative is offered to over 1,400 students in 17 schools throughout the country each year.
According to the BHTA, a "major overhaul" of the Hospitality and Tourism curriculum is now underway. The new program is being piloted this year in several public schools and should be introduced at the grade 10 level next September.
Bowe outlined a number of other BHTA initiatives with the schools, including $300,000 worth of scholarships that have been awarded over the past several years. More focus is also being placed on foreign language training, he stated, in response to the Ministry of Tourism's pursuit of new markets such as Latin America and Asia.
"A more diverse population with language skills broadens our appeal as a tourism destination. We see increased arrivals from non-English speaking countries and hope to see more Bahamians become multi- lingual," the BHTA said.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Apr 29, 2013