32 applications for first year
The Cayman Islands new Hospitality School, which aims to introduce a new generation of young people to careers in the tourism industry, had received 32 applications when the deadline passed on Friday.
There are 25 places available in the opening year of the free course which will combine classroom work at the University College of the Cayman Islands with practical instruction in businesses around the island.
Several tourism businesses have signed up to turn their kitchens, dive boats and hotel offices into training centers for young Caymanians to learn the tourism trade on the front lines.
The course, offered to Caymanian school leavers between 17 and 23 years old, aims to ensure local people share in the success of the tourism industry by providing them with the know-how and qualifications to get entry level jobs that officials hope will be the first rung on the ladder to successful careers in tourism.
Wayne Jackson, the director of the Hospitality School, said interviewing of candidates would likely begin by the end of the week. He said he had offered some flexibility to some would-be students who had been unable to get their applications in on time. He expects the total number of applicants to swell to around 40.
However, he warned that the timeliness of applications would be factored into the selection process.
He said he was generally happy with the response from young people in Cayman to the school in its inaugural year and believes interest will grow as it establishes itself as a pathway to careers in tourism.
“In fairness, we had 102 inquiries and we have had a 30 percent conversion rate from those inquiries. We had some who were ineligible because they were too old or they were not Caymanian, so the numbers are not bad, actually.
“I think it will be over-subscribed next year.”
He said there may be some flexibility to slightly increase the final number of places on the course if there were additional outstanding candidates. Equally, the numbers could be reduced slightly, depending on the results of the interview process.
“It is important that we get the right people. We are looking for people who have good communication skills, willingness to learn, are able to meet deadlines, and have good character.”
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has spoken of his desire for the school to enable young Caymanians to be involved in tourism as arrival figures and hotel developments increase opportunities in the industry.
“The importance of increasing the number of Caymanians in the tourism industry, particularly in front facing jobs, cannot be understated,” he said.
Mr. Kirkconnell said he hoped the intake at the hospitality school would grow eventually to at least 50 students.
Mr. Jackson said he was also hopeful that the school could expand over the years. But he said it is crucial to ensure that the students had the best possible learning experience and that there were enough industry-based job placements to make the course work.
“I think we may have to look at increasing the capacity in future, but we have to maintain the quality.
“The key thing is that the students, the Cayman residents, have to see that this was worth it. They get the opportunity to learn, they get the opportunity to be employed, and the businesses get good employees that can progress,” he said.
The three-semester course runs from September to May, with successful students achieving an internationally recognized City and Guilds qualification. The course contains a heavy work placement component and officials aim to find full-time employment for all successful students.