Director hopes school will change negative view of tourism careers
The first students at Cayman’s new hospitality school have received a glowing report card from the school’s director for their efforts so far.
The students came through their first semester at the University College of the Cayman Islands’ School of Hospitality Studies – designed to provide a conveyer belt of Caymanian employees for the growing tourism industry – and are now at work placements across the community.
Of the original 27 students, four have dropped out. Not ideal, acknowledges school director Wayne Jackson, but still better than the vast majority of college classes.
He said the 23 students who stayed the course are making great strides.
“We are in the second semester now, and students are now realizing what the expectations are for the program and what it is going to take,” he said.
In the first term, he said, they were out on a variety of work placements, sampling different aspects of the industry. Now they are focusing on their preferred specialties, as well as continuing classroom work.
“We have students focusing on recreational water sports; we have persons going to learn scuba diving; we have boat operators; we have a few chefs, a few specializing in pastries – the cooking and culinary aspects are very popular,” he added.
Mr. Jackson believes all 23 students will be in line for jobs in the industry once they have completed the course.
“There are always vacancies for people coming in at entry level,” he said. “The first goal is to have them become competent enough to secure a job.
“Their next goal would be to become masters in their field so they can be promoted up the organizational chain.”
He said Cayman is fighting a negative view of the tourism industry that has persisted for generations. He believes the tepid response to the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and National Workforce Development Agency’s jobs drive is a symptom of a widely held view in the community that the industry is not a viable source of jobs.
He acknowledged that entry level wages are low – sometimes as low as $3 an hour – but he said tips are good and the salaries improve as workers get extra qualifications and move up in their careers.
“In the Bahamas, it is almost totally locals in the sector and they have the same pay system,” he said. “Over time, we will begin to overcome these negative impressions of the tourism industry.”
He believes the school is already beginning to make inroads in that respect with the next generation. There is already interest in the next course, he said, which starts in September. Government hopes enrollment for the 2015/16 class will increase to 50 students.