Industry leaders trying to involve more Caymanians in tourism
Only 12 people found jobs through a tourism employment drive that targeted more than 180 out-of-work Caymanians who said they wanted to work in the hospitality or tourism field.
Organizers acknowledged the pilot scheme to link jobless Caymanians with opportunities in tourism had experienced “challenges,” including a degree of apathy toward the industry from unemployed people.
But they plan to persist with the project as part of a wider strategy to involve more locals in tourism jobs.
Top executives from the industry met with 120 job seekers to give one-on-one career guidance in a series of district road shows late last year.
Around 40 got job interviews and 12 are now working. Others were referred for training opportunities.
The project began with staff personally calling every person on the National Workforce Development Agency’s unemployment database who had indicated an interest in hospitality, to invite them to the district events.
Ken Hydes, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said the scheme had identified some good candidates and found them employment.
He said it had also helped organizers identify what kind of opportunities Caymanians were interested in and advise them on what training opportunities were available to qualify them for those roles.
He said the employment drive would become an annual event ahead of peak tourism season in the winter.
Mr. Hydes acknowledged there had been “challenges,” with a lack of interest or relevant qualifications a barrier to some opportunities, particularly kitchen work and water-sports jobs.
The figures suggest a many unemployed Caymanians don’t see the industry as a viable option.
With reportedly 2,000 Caymanians out of work, only 183 said they were interested in jobs in hospitality or tourism. Around 60 of those failed to turn up to the district road shows.
Of the 120 who did show, 47 were registered for the PRIDE and Promises soft skills job workshops. Just under half of those did not attend.
“As an employer, if you have done those programs, that is a check in the box for me,” said Mr. Hydes.
“We are dedicated to improving the employment of Caymanians in our industry. The local population also has to equip themselves by getting relevant training and taking up the opportunities on offer.”
He said that while starting salaries are typically lower in the tourism trade, the opportunity for tips and career advancement is greater than people realize.
He said there are enough success stories to indicate that the program, the first of its kind in Cayman, would be an effective tool in “changing the dynamics of the industry.”
With the new Kimpton hotel under construction and tourism arrival numbers rebounding, Mr. Hydes believes there will be plenty of job opportunities in the industry in the coming years.
He said hotels and restaurants want to become more involved in on-the-job training schemes, mentoring and career guidance to ensure Caymanians are positioned to take those jobs.
The jobs drive was led by business owners and leaders in the tourism industry, including Janette Goodman of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Steven Hayes of Tropical Trader Restaurant Group, and Markus Mueri of NM Ventures.
“Decision-makers in the tourism industry dedicated hundreds of hours to the program, literally going district to district to meet with people,” Mr. Hydes said.
“With strong support from government and a commitment to an annual drive and ongoing follow ups, the tourism industry has a systematic plan to draw more Caymanians into our business.”
Employment Minister Tara Rivers said, “This long-term partnership has real potential to create change and to ensure that Caymanians have opportunities to be active participants in the growing tourism labor market.”