Ritz training programme a HIT

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is carrying out three human resources programmes designed to both directly and indirectly help achieve the hotel’s ambitious goal of doubling its percentage of Caymanian employees over the next two years.

Director of Training Valerie Tzucker

Pictured from left, HIT participants Monique Ebanks, Jamaal Estwich, Felicia Brown, Andrea Maffessanti, Brittany Kelly, Lexie Buse, Jessica McFarlane, Trisha Cuffy, Devin Douglas and Director of Training Valerie Tzucker. Photo: Submitted

A press release from the resort explains, ‘The programmes range from recruiting young Caymanians who are new to the hospitality industry to mentoring and developing Caymanian ladies and gentlemen employed at the resort to providing advanced instruction to university students who represent the future of Cayman’s tourist industry and potential leaders for The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.’

Hospitality in training

Hospitality in Training is essentially an apprenticeship in which young Caymanians can experience hands-on training in the hospitality industry while getting paid. At the end of their training, they will be fully certified Ritz-Carlton hospitality professionals.

Human Resources Director Brenda-Belding Topping’s vision for the HIT programme was fully realised after approximately 15 managers from The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman attended the Skoop job fair at the University College of the Cayman Islands in June 2006, the release says. ‘At the event, managers met talented, energetic students who expressed interest in the hospitality field and The Ritz-Carlton in particular, but who did not know a great deal about the opportunities and career paths available.’

HIT allows participants to learn on the job. For example, a participant in the Rooms Division (hotel parlance for the front desk, concierge, housekeeping, bellman services, etc) will work in the different areas of hotel for one year. Afterwards, the HIT participant can focus on the specific department in which he or she wants to advance.

‘Rooms training is invaluable for anyone who is considering a career in five star hospitality,’ said vice president and general manager Jean Cohen. ‘The rooms experience in our HIT program gives participants a global view of hotel operations and is the foundation for a successful hotel management career.’

Participants in the Culinary HIT programme are more likely to spend two years training, both to master technical skills and to gain experience in all the different disciplines and kitchens. A participant who shows aptitude for creative presentation may opt to spend more time with the Garde Manger or the Pastry Chef in order to refine his or her artistic abilities.

‘An aspiring chef needs to experience the full spectrum of the culinary arts,’ said Executive Chef Eric Scuiller. ‘We want our HIT culinary staff members to understand everything from the mechanics of preparing a grand banquet for 600 to the nuances of preparing the popular tuna foie gras appetizer in Blue.’

Hospitality in Training formally kicked off October 26 – 27, 2006 during the mid-term break for government schools. The programme currently includes 12 participants that range from soon-to-be high school graduates to recent college graduates. Seven participants will train in the Rooms division. Other departments with HIT trainees include Accounting, Spa, Culinary and Sales and Marketing. More participants for the programme are being sought, particularly in the fields of food & beverage and engineering, a critical role at the $500 million property.

Mentoring Programme

As with all of the Caymanian ladies and gentlemen at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, HIT participants will be assigned a mentor from the hotel’s management team.

‘The mentor’s role is to help Caymanian employees guide their career development within The Ritz-Carlton organization and culture,’ explained the release.

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman launched its Mentoring Programme in April 2006, with more than 80 per cent of the Caymanian ladies and gentlemen choosing to participate. Jean Cohen developed the mentoring program as part of her goal not only to hire Caymanians but also to help them advance within The Ritz-Carlton organisation.

‘We are expecting the mentoring programme to be particularly beneficial to the HIT participants,’ said Ms. Belding-Topping. ‘These young people are new to the world of luxury hospitality – its language, practices and culture. The mentors will help young Caymanians successfully harness their considerable talents in this new environment.’

However the rewards of the mentoring programme go both ways, and many of the resort’s Caymanian ladies and gentlemen have helped expatriate managers navigate their own professional growth.

‘While I’ve taught my mentee about tenets of The Ritz-Carlton management style, he’s taught me how to be a more effective manager in the Caribbean region,’ said Resort Manager Marc Langevin who is mentor to Caymanian manager Kurt Christian, the resort’s Community Footprints leader. ‘Kurt has helped me develop successful operational best practices that are essential on an island – lessons I would never have never learned at city hotels or a U.S. resort.’

UCCI programme

College and certificate students interested in pursuing a career in hospitality are participating in an intensive 18-class offering this Fall at UCCI that uses The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman as the teaching model. Led by Belinda Blessitt of UCCI and volunteer Steven Cohen, formerly professor at The Tisch Center for Hospitality at New York University, the course exposes students to all areas of hotel management through in-depth seminars with managers from the resort.

Half of the courses are taught at the UCCI campus. The other courses occur at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman where students get firsthand knowledge from a ‘teaching resort.’

A highlight of the course is the last class of the semester, scheduled for November 22, at which, Denise Naguib and the Ambassadors of the Environment team introduce the students to the principles and practicalities of eco-tourism.

Several of the HIT programme participants have attended UCCI. Another option is for UCCI students to enter into a work study programme or internship. Generally unpaid positions, these programmes allow students to immerse themselves in their area of interest for a short period of time to gain practical experience.

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