Aimed at reviewing the state of hospitality in Guyana and to establish an institution for the delivery of hospitality programmes, the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) yesterday held a stakeholder consultation programme at the Pegasus Hotel.
The forum saw the attendance of tourist guide operators, officials of the Ministry of Tourism, the Carnegie School of Home Economics and representatives of other hospitality-oriented entities, and was intended to discuss the findings of a hospitality feasibility study undertaken under the auspices of the CDB, with the Carnegie School of Home Ecnomics being viewed as the institution with the potential to host hospitality-related programmes.
Minister Baksh asserted that any hospitality programme must have entrepreneurship skills development, thus the Ministry has been moving in directions which will satisfy the skills need of Guyana. He pointed out that employers have been demanding more relevant skills, and as such, all institutions must respond aggressively to fulfilling the kinds of demands being made by the private sector, enterprises and individual employers in the labour market.
“We have to ensure that we provide windows of opportunities for all of our youths and students coming out of the school system to be able to go in various career directions, to be able to have options and to take up employment in key and critical areas.”
The Minister said that efforts have been made to identify this year, three key and core areas which should be emphasized. The first, he said, is an entrepreneurship development programme, the second is the hospital skills development programme and the third is the information communication technology programme (ICT).
“We are already on the move with the ICT, rolling it out in the school system in a very large way by putting computers in the primary and secondary schools. To complement that initiative is the One Laptop Per Family programme which the Government has embarked upon.”
Also there have been major and huge investments in human resources, the Minister noted, adding that the training of teachers is a sustained feature.
Some 2,000 teachers have been trained in basic literacy and efforts are being made to move towards the higher modules in information technology, he said.
“We must be relevant in whatever training we are doing. I have called upon the technical institutes and the industrial training centres to review their programmes, they have done this already, even the secretarial skills programme has been revamped and they are looking at all their programmes to see what new inputs can be made.”
Of paramount importance, Baksh said, is quality assurance. He pointed out, though, that quality assurance has not yet been done at the Carnegie School of Home Economics to allow for accreditation.
However, the school is registered with the Accreditation Council of Guyana.
The Minister noted that in any review of the operations of the school there is need to factor-in the quality issues in a similar manner that has been done for the teacher education programme. In this regard he stressed that the criteria for admission into the Carnegie School must be examined.
“At this point in time I think that any and everybody can really go to Carnegie and obtain a basic skill.
I have looked in-depth at the operations of the Carnegie School of Home Economics, its programmes, and the content of the programmes, and I have also considered the development plan which the (Carnegie) Principal has put up, touching on some core areas.”Baksh also revealed that just about two months ago a new board was appointed to the school, an intentional move which sees representation from the Private Sector, the hotels, the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana, the Guyana Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism.
The board is headed by Mr John Seeram, who is a specialist in his own right, having taught hospitality management at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus and in the Bahamas some years ago, according to Baksh. The Board was set up to transform the Carnegie School, however, no member other than the head of the board was at the opening of yesterday’s forum.
According to Baksh, efforts must be made to prepare local human resources to take on the important function within the hospitality industry and guard against tourists’ first experience here being undesirable.
“No tourist can come here and really enjoy this country on one visit. We are not an island, we are part of a continent, we are part of the Amazon, and there are so many activities for tourists here in our country. It would take them many, many visits to see and appreciate the vast ecology of our country.”
According to Dr Idamay Denny of CDB, it was some time early last year that the Government of Guyana had discussed with CDB, the possibility of developing a feasibility study to see whether a hospitality institute would be a good option for Guyana. A formal request was made, asking for the current state of hospitality training, taking into consideration that such a facility would take some time to be implemented. In light of this, the services of Mrs Bernice Critchlow-Earle, Director of the Barbados Hospitality Training Institute was retained at minimal cost to the Guyana government. As part of the consultant’s mandate, was the task to assess the skills gaps that needed to be addressed to adequately support the industry, and also to determine the new programmes that could be immediately introduced and upgrade the current programming. She was also tasked with advising on the role of the Carnegie School of Home Economics in the entire process. Her findings were unveiled yesterday in an attempt to invoke much discussion.
Director of the Tourism Association, Indranauth Haralsingh, insisted during brief remarks that Guyana and the tourism industry need a hospitality training institute. According to him, tourism is about an experience, is intensely people-oriented, and is thus a very competitive industry. He added, too, that the service is one of the attributes that can give Destination Guyana/the Amazon Adventure, a competitive advantage.
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