Cayman’s new tourism school could accept as many as 50 students into the program in September after a successful first year with 16 youngsters expected to graduate.
Of the 25 who entered the program in September, around two-thirds are expected to qualify. Four students have already found jobs in the industry, while two others are going overseas to continue their studies.
Wayne Jackson, director of the School of Hospitality Studies, said government was looking to double the intake of students to next year’s program.
The students did a mix of classroom work and job-training in local businesses ranging from The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman hotel to Red Sail Sports. They are completing exams and work-experience modules through the summer and will ultimately receive a City and Guilds trade qualification.
Mr. Jackson said, “The partnership with the hospitality industry has enabled them to get broad-brush exposure to the industry, including the airport, the ports, the hotel and restaurant sector, and water sports.”
The students were also part of major island events like the Cayman Cookout and Cayman Thanksgiving.
Restaurant owner Markus Mueri, one of the founders of the program, said it had been a wonderful first year.
“You have 16 amazing young people who are performing fantastically in their jobs and in the classroom and are going to be very valuable people in the industry in the future,” he said. “Quite a few have jobs already or are going on to further education.
“We have to be frank also, it is not all roses. Some did not want to do the work required and those are the ones that will not make it.”
He said the program was demanding and some had dropped out along the way.
“The biggest challenge is the transition from being at school to the reality of work,” he said. “You have to be 10 minutes early, you have to be smiling and have a good attitude and be able to work with people. That has been the biggest problem for many of the students and it has taken nine months for some of them to be comfortable.”
The program qualifies students for entry-level jobs in the tourism industry. They have the option of going on to further studies.
Four students impressed enough on their work placements to get jobs in the hotel and restaurant industries.
Mr. Mueri believes there is scope to expand the program and get more young Caymanians involved in the tourism industry, but he believes it may be ambitious to go up to 50 for the second year.
He said the right attitude was essential for would-be students.
“We are very strict on who we are taking,” he said. “The ones that dropped out this year did not want to be there. We need to do a better job of explaining what the expectations will be and the standard that will be set for students on the course.”
Mr. Jackson said there had been 41 applicants so far for next year’s course. The tentative deadline for applications is July 31.