First tourism students graduate

With 34 students already started the 2008/09 Tourism Apprenticeship Training Programme and 14 successfully graduated from the previous year’s course, more Caymanians are stepping into the working world of tourism.

Ms Blessitt-Vincent and Mr. Szydlowski

Ms Blessitt-Vincent and Mr. Szydlowski
Photo: Cliodhna Doherty

The first TATP kicked off on 10 September, 2007, which was its pilot year. Fourteen of its 20 students graduated last month, while the others will be retaking courses this season.

At the recent Annual Tourism Conference, speaking of the graduates, Mr. Dan Szydlowski, who Co-Chairs the Tourism Apprenticeship Training Advisory Council with Ms Belinda Blessitt-Vincent, said, ‘Out of the programme the establishments have received food and beverage senior waiters and waitresses, cashiers and hostesses, cooks, housekeeping supervisors and front office reservations agents and front desk agents.’

The four core areas of study in the TATP are: food and beverage operation; food preparation operation; front office operation; and housekeeping – supervisory level.

The one year full-time programme is comprised of foundation courses, Caribcert core competency courses and on the job training.

Ms Blessitt-Vincent said of the Caribcert certified profiessionals: ‘They are skilled and they are proud employees and they do give businesses a competitive edge, and, more importantly for the industry, they will repeat business because what do they do for the industry? They exceed guests’ expectations.’

Caribcert is a professional certification programme specifically designed by the Caribbean Hotel Association for the Caribbean tourism industry and is based on standards established for 45 critical occupations in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Mr. Szydlowski emphasised the need for more workplace participants such as restaurants and hotels/condos for this year, as the number of students is up on last year.

‘They [the students] are now doing foundation courses but come January all the way until August we need establishments that will take on students a minimum of 15 hours a week,’ he said.

‘That gives the student, young or old, a better chance to work themselves into the work environment. It teaches them discipline and they are more responsible and more confident than if they just came out of a classroom. At least this way they have experience and they are ready to go full time.

‘It’s better for the employer because it’s much better to give the guests a Caymanian experience and the best way to do that is to have Caymanian representation at all the establishments,’ he said.

Workplace participants for the pilot year were: the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa, Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Sunshine Suites Resorts, Azzurro’s Restaurant, Breezes by the Bay Restaurant, Grand Cayman Beach Suites.

One testimonial from student Kayleigh McCoy who successfully completed food preparation operations, reads, ‘I enjoyed this magnificent programme. It is very educational and fun.’

Participant Yvonne McLean who successfully completed Housekeeping Supervisory Operations said, ‘It was a challenging experience – very exciting and interesting. I would recommend young people to take this opportunity to be a part of this programme.’

Attendees heard that the programme has been greatly enhanced as a result of undertaking a comprehensive assessment of last year’s programme, including valuable feedback from all players.

Some key lessons learned from the 2007/08 year include the following changes:

Basic English and grammar are to be added to foundation courses;

The timeline is to be lengthened to allow for more detailed review of applications;

Due to the intensity and amount of material to be covered, food and beverage service and food preparation should begin core components during foundation course term in September;

The programme is built on a partnership between the Ministry and Department of Tourism, the University College of the Cayman Islands, International College of the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.

The programme is designed to create a cadre of Caymanian hospitality professionals in occupations traditionally under-represented by Caymanians but with respectable compensation levels and career potentials.