Tourism gurus wooing Caymanians

In a push to attract more Caymanians into the tourism industry, a new Advisory Council for the Tourism Apprenticeship Programme has been appointed by Cabinet.

This was announced by Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford at the annual Tourism Conference Thursday.

The Apprenticeship Programme, he said, is to create Caymanian hospitality professionals with internationally recognized competency in selected tourism and hospitality jobs.

The Advisory Council is to work closely with the Department of Tourism’s Human Capital Development Unit to get the programme started.

The first meeting of the council was to have taken place on Friday.

Fourteen members comprise the council, representing the tourism industry, vocational educators, administrators from UCCI and ICCI, government agencies and members of the community.

Mr. Clifford said, ‘. . . while every single one of our tourism industry employees is important, regardless of where they come from originally, guests today want to meet Caymanians’.

He outlined some of the primary responsibilities of the Advisory Council: to identify careers within the tourism industry suitable for apprenticeship training; determine the current and future workforce needs of the industry; select occupations to be included in the pilot test of the programme for 2006-07; determine competency standards to be achieved; approve courses of study; approve employers for job training, institutions for classroom training and selection process for selection of trainees.

President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Karie Bergstrom said she believe the industry is actually starting to make headway on the recruitment of young Caymanians, noting the Department of Tourism as an example. ‘We have phenomenal local talent looking to get into the industry, but we need to do more.’

In her Friday presentation, Investing in Cayman Islands Tourism Human Capital, Director of Tourism Pilar Bush said an investment needs to be made in human resources in order to remain competitive in the tourism industry.

2005 statistics from the Economics and Statistics Office show that 21 per cent of the Caymanian workforce is involved in tourism.

Of those working in the tourism industry, according to the Employment Relations Workforce Skills Assessment Survey in 2003, approximately 40 per cent were Caymanians and 60 per cent were non-Caymanians. In the Construction industry 45 per cent were Caymanian and 55 per cent non-Caymanian. The financial industry shows the highest level of Caymanian participation, with 66 per cent.

Ms Bush said the average monthly wages of Caymanians in the different sectors shows that those in the industry are not in it for lucrative reasons. ‘We’re in it for a whole set of other reasons, because we love what we do, we like working with people, we like the flexibility of not being stuck in a cubicle from 8.30am to 5pm.’

Although starting and average salaries are lower for the same jobs when compared to other industries, there are perks for being in the industry: the ability to travel at discounted rates, services and hotel rooms.

Ms Bush noted that there is a finite labour force all sectors competing for employees.

Another challenge is that free market forces are very strong, and beyond this there is a community driven will where community values may perceive tourism to not be as important or as high an accomplishment as another industry.

The Human Capital Unit at DoT was developed to reflect the importance of developing people in tourism in the Cayman Islands.

The function of the unit is to educate students, parents and educators on the value of the tourism industry, to train industry and allied personnel and to increasing the community’s awareness and understanding of tourism. These areas are included in its scope of work.

The development of minimum service excellence standards for the country is shortly to begin, she said.

An example of training is that 200 taxi drivers will be trained before this year’s Florida Caribbean Cruise Conference.

On a positive note, the conference heard that this semester at UCCI, 16 young Caymanians chose hospitality studies as their first choice. This has doubled from previous years. Last year there were 15, but only as a third choice.

The new members of Apprenticeship Advisory Council are: Chris Sariego, Manager, Marriott Beach Resort; Jean Cohen, General manager Ritz Carlton; Daniel Szydlowski, General Manager Westin Casuarina Resort; Gerry Kirkconnell, Director Kirk Freeport; Lucille Seymour, MLA; Chevala Burke, Marketing and Promotions Manager, District Administration; Philip Scott, Deputy Director, Employment Relations Services; Wendy Jackson, Human Resources Assistant, Cayman Airways Ltd.; Juliet Dufeu, Director, As I See It; Dr. Elsa Cummings, President, ICCI; Belinda Blessitt-Vincent, UCCI; Karie Bergstrom, President CITA; Pilar Bush, Director of Tourism; Gloria McField-Nixon, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism.

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