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UCCI EXPANDS TOURISM TRAINING

Front Pages 21 Aug, 2020 Follow News

UCCI EXPANDS TOURISM TRAINING

UCCI EXPANDS TOURISM TRAINING

University College of the Cayman Islands(UCCI) has added its voice to the ongoing debate about ‘retraining and retooling’ Caymanians for roles in the tourism industry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

UCCI which runs the School of Hospitality Studies(SHS) has announced that in this regard, it plans to offer a bachelor’s degree in tourism-related studies.

The move is endorsed by Cayman Islands Director of Tourism Rosa Harris, who chairs the hospitality school’s advisory council.

Observing that in 2019, 2.3 million people visited Cayman, accounting for about 30 per cent of the jurisdiction’s GDP, UCCI says “few things are more important to the Cayman Islands’ long-term survival than tourism.”

So, it makes sense, it adds, that it offers a robust program to train people for the industry through its School of Hospitality Studies.

The issue of having more Caymanians getting jobs in the industry, especially at the upper levels, has been forced to the forefront with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.

It was also a consistent discussion point during last week’s national economic summit organised by the Chamber of Commerce.

The Cayman tourism industry, which relies on huge numbers of external workers, has seen the departure of hundreds of work permit holders as many hotels and other businesses have either closed or severely scaled back their operations in the interim.

While that has had a consequential impact on government revenue from work permit fees, it has refocused the debate on jobs in the tourism industry for Caymanians.

“We want Caymanians to take up these roles that were held by people with work permits,” said Wayne Jackson, Director of SHS.

Tourism Director Rosa Harris agrees. She said some ‘retooling’ is necessary in order for workers to take on those roles.

“In the current state of our industry, as we face the Covid-19 pandemic, it is paramount to lean on established programmes such as SHS to help those tourism employees who have been displaced learn new skills.”

The Tourism Director also said: “We look forward to seeing the SHS play a major role in developing short courses in the short term to help displaced Caymanian tourism employees pivot to stay-over tourism jobs.”

In that regard, SHS director Jackson said those short courses are already in the works and will be offered through continuing education.

“We’ve done them before, but we’re increasing the courses we’re offering.”

Those classes include cooking, cake decorating, customer service, bartending and event planning.

The 10-week courses begin Aug. 31.

“It’s time for people to retool so they can take up the opportunities that present themselves,” he said. “It’s very important now that we seize those opportunities.”

Mr Jackson also disclosed that UCCI has established pipelines with a number of hotels and restaurants in Grand Cayman and hopes to increase such access in the future. He also wants graduates of the SHS to have broader opportunities.

SHS already offers courses that are certified by City & Guilds in the United Kingdom and it says many of the courses will also meet the requirements of the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute.

UCCI President and CEO Stacy McAfee said SHS is a prime example of what UCCI provides to local industry.

“Tourism is core to Cayman’s business infrastructure,” she said, “and the SHS has become an integral partner, supplying tourism with qualified Caymanian workers.

“We expect that the partnerships we have established across this sector and with government will only strengthen as we all recover from this recent economic blow. Working together, we can grow and create a vibrant future for Cayman.”

Meanwhile, Marcus Mueri, owner of several Cayman restaurants, including Abacus in Camana Bay, and one of the people who helped put UCCI’s hospitality programme together in 2014, said he would like to see an additional option more vocational in nature.

”For me, it’s about putting people on the job,” Meuri said. “The first year is a great start. It needs a second year, where kids go two days to school and four days to work, becoming an employee who knows what they’re doing.”

Now in its 45th year, UCCI established the SHS in 2014 in cooperation with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

“It’s the most important thing ever created for tourism,” said Markus Mueri, owner of several Cayman restaurants, including Abacus in Camana Bay, and one of the people who helped put UCCI’s hospitality programme together in 2014.

”For me, it’s about putting people on the job,” Meuri said. “The first year is a great start. It needs a second year, where kids go two days to school and four days to work, becoming an employee who knows what they’re doing.”

“Wayne is doing an amazing job,” he said referring to the SHS director.

Mr Jackson who has a master’s degree in management information from the University of Delaware, said UCCI offered hospitality courses before 2014, but it was only then that those courses were consolidated to form a cohesive programme through the SHS.

“The idea was to get more Caymanians into the industry," he said.

In 2014, the SHS welcomed an initial cohort of 25 students. That has nearly doubled in size in the past few years with 35-45 students typically starting their studies each fall.

The students are exposed to hotel work, food and beverage service, bartending, cooking, food crafts, and water sports.

“We show them as much as we can in the first semester,” the SHS director said. “After that, they have to choose one or two areas that they will specialize in. This is for the one-year program.”

Mr Jackson estimates that about half of the students move into the industry at the end of that year. Many others continue on and earn a two-year associate’s degree in hospitality.

In the immediate future, the school will be expanding the offerings in its continuing education courses, which are separate from the year-long programmes.

SHA says this is to help fill an anticipated need when Cayman begins reopening to tourists.


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