The school, which was in development more than two years, will give young Caymanians an opportunity to learn various disciplines in the tourism trade. Unlike previous tourism schools in the Cayman Islands, this one will incorporate real-world work experience training at several tourism-related businesses in addition to classroom study.
After successfully completing the one-year program, students will receive an internationally recognized City and Guilds qualification, something that will give them job opportunities not only in the Cayman Islands, but also in tourism-related businesses all over the world should they wish to travel.
In other places, students would pay for an educational opportunity such as this, but Cayman’s School of Hospitality will be offered without charge to successful applicants.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell wants to see Caymanians more involved in the country’s tourism product, which he sees dominated by expatriate workers, “so that we too can participate in the tourism industry and benefit in the ways we should.” Assuming that the Caymanians hired for tourism jobs are adequately qualified and exhibit the requisite customer service skills and attitudes, we wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Kirkconnell.
Caymanians should indeed be more involved in our tourism industry for a number of reasons. As one of the pillars of our economy, tourism offers a steady source of employment. Like most other fields of work, those in the industry generally have to start at the bottom and work their way up as they gain experience. Good, personable servers, however, have the chance to start making good money from the beginning.
Those with the right attitude and work ethic who look at the hospitality industry as a career, rather than just a job, will almost certainly have management opportunities come their way by the time they’re 30. They’ll also have the necessary knowledge to have a fighting chance of survival if they choose to start their own businesses at some point.
Having Caymanians in the tourism industry will also help our tourism product. Tourists are looking for location uniqueness when they travel abroad and interacting with local people can offer that. Meeting friendly, smiling Caymanians at hotels, bars, restaurants and other tourist-related businesses would help give our visitors a more distinctive vacation experience.
A tourism career is not for everybody. It can be physically demanding and the schedule often requires work on evenings, weekends and holidays. Hospitality is a profession where attitude and industriousness are the prime requirements.
Opportunity is knocking for young Caymanians, but it remains to be seen how many will open the door. With less than two weeks before the enrollment deadline, there were only five official applicants for the 25 spots open for the School of Hospitality’s inaugural year.
The small pool of applicants so far may be related to marketing, or lack thereof. We shall see if that number increases now that the school is in the news.
There’s been a lot said recently that not enough is being done to ensure Caymanians have jobs. The School of Hospitality will not only offer access to good jobs, but also to good careers. We certainly hope that more Caymanians will take advantage of this opportunity to help themselves and the islands’ tourism product. If this free school isn’t fully subscribed, it will speak loudly against the argument that expatriate hospitality workers aren’t needed in the Cayman Islands.