Train to retain

As the region’s hotel industry expands rapidly, personnel training is now a priority, with hospitality institutes building their course offerings and hotels putting more emphasis on staff development

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By  Sarah Gain Published  November 25, 2006

|~|Training-B.jpg|~||~|As Dubai prepares to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2010 and the role of the hospitality sector grows in the economy, industry leaders say that personnel training will have to become more sophisticated as well. The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has begun a new initiative to supervise and regulate training for staff in hotels and tour companies, in preparation for this exponential growth. Under an agreement with the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, DTCM has become the sole licensing authority for the organisation’s training and skills development programmes in the UAE. The tourism department will engage outside parties, such as hotels and educational institutions, to offer training programmes especially tailored to suit the burgeoning industry. According to human resource manager for the DTCM, Ibrahim Yaqoot, the courses, covering areas such as housekeeping, club management, finance, human resources, front office and sales, will help both workers and managerial personnel in improving their professional skills. “An efficient and trained workforce will help achieve the tourism goals,” he says. At present, the DTCM trains 1000 personnel a year, but with the workforce set to grow to 100,000 staff by 2010, a wider variety of courses is now required. “DTCM will be sub-licensing to selected, well-qualified training schools to deliver the courses. The DTCM will be offering a wide selection of courses at its training facility at the Dubai Cruise Terminal,” explains David Lechter, a vice-president at the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He says that the tourism sector is developing “dramatically and rapidly” and that this tie up will provide consistency in certification standards. Naturally, Emiratisation continues to play a key role in creating a highly skilled workforce, with the DTCM celebrating the fourth graduation from its Maharat hospitality training programme for Emiratis last month. The DTCM’s Yaqoot presented certificates to the graduates at an awards ceremony held at the Park Hyatt. Many of the graduates have formally started their hospitality industry careers with some of Dubai’s top five-star hotels, following the completion of the nine-week training programme. “Many UAE nationals have little knowledge about careers within the hospitality industry and this programme has not only helped in attracting young nationals for the select jobs but also helped to clear misconceptions about the hotel industry jobs. We hope it will help attract more nationals join the hospitality industry,” says Yaqoot. Some 57 UAE national graduates successfully completed nine-week training in different aspects of the hospitality industry. The graduates comprised of 24 males and 33 females, with all graduates finding employment following the course. The Maharat programme was supported by Accor, Hyatt International, Jebel Ali International, Jumeirah, Rotana, Shangri-La, Sheraton, Dusit, InterContinental, Fairmont, Hilton, Kempinski Mall of the Emirates and Le Royal Meridien. From just 15 UAE nationals in 2002, the number of UAE nationals working in the hotel industry has crossed the 400 mark. The programme content includes an English language programme, hotel business communication, hotel interpersonal and team skills workshops, introduction to the hospitality industry, core hospitality industry workplace skills, introduction to hotel departments, job categories and job competencies. Mirroring the success of the Maharat programme, educational institutes across the UAE are refining their curricula and expanding rapidly in a bid to provide more qualified hotel staff to the region’s burgeoning industry. A major extension at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai is well underway and is scheduled to open in early 2007. Meanwhile, the Falcon College of Hotel Management & Tourism has announced the launch of the first hotel management and tourism program in Abu Dhabi. Additional facilities at Dubai’s Emirates Academy will include extra class/teaching rooms, two auditoria and a large learning resource centre. “The additional campus space and facilities are much needed and will assist us to accommodate the rapid growth we have enjoyed since we first opened in the summer of 2001,” says Ron Hilvert, managing director of The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management. “With a further intake of over 85 students joining The Emirates Academy in October this year, the student population will exceed 250. The new facilities, which are state-of-the-art, will allow us to continue offering the highest quality of teaching, service and facilities to the ever growing international student body.” The new campus extension will feature six additional class rooms, several new offices for the academic faculty, a prayer room and two auditoria, each with a capacity to accommodate 88 students. A fully equipped learning resource centre will also open within the new campus building featuring several study and meetings rooms for students to work on group projects. In addition to its current restaurant and café facilities in the main campus building, the extension will also see the opening of an additional café with indoor and outdoor seating offering views of the Burj Al Arab. A new mini market and extension of the existing Club House on campus will also be part of the extension plan at The Emirates Academy. “The rapid growth of The Emirates Academy is testimony to the quality of the faculty and the various degree programmes on offer as well as its mature, professional and truly international student body,” says Gerald Lawless, CEO of Jumeirah Group, parent company of the academy. Current degree programmes on offer at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management are a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Hons Degree in International Hospitality Management, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Hons Degree in International Tourism Management, an Associate Degree in International Hospitality Operations and an Associate Degree in Business & Tourism. The student body of The Emirates Academy is international, with students from more than 45 different nationalities currently in attendance. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s Falcon College is now preparing its first hotel management and tourism programme. The college is accepting applications for the degree course, which will start in January. “We recognise that the hospitality and tourism industry in Abu Dhabi and the region as a whole is flourishing and employers require bright, capable people to complement their teams,” says Abdulla Abduljalil Al Fahim, chairman of Falcon College. “The main reason for establishing the college was to create new graduates that are capable of keeping up with the developments and prosperity of the tourism sector in the UAE and worldwide,” he adds. Falcon College is also preparing to expand its facilities and will add a new campus within two years. The educational institute is affiliated to the Cesar Ritz College in Switzerland, one of the top hotel management training educational programmes in Europe.||**||On-property training|~||~||~|However, the real training starts once hoteliers are qualified and employed. Hotels across the region are recognising the importance of having an in-house training team to provide motivational and educational syllabus to line staff, supervisors and managers. Marriott International upped the ante on its Spirit to Serve training a couple of years ago, and with measurable results. “Spirit to Serve trains all associates on the Marriott culture in delivering service by going above and beyond. It is a full day training that includes games, team work, motivational stories and more. The great thing about this training is the fact that it is stuff that they all already know, it’s just delivering it in an upbeat interactive way so that it individually challenges, motivates and inspires wow service,” explains Gary Kaas, cluster director of training for Marriott in Dubai. Marriott has also recently rolled its Passport to Success, which is a programme for all operation associates which ensures consistency across all brands. Kaas also points to the use of NLP (Nero Linguistic Programming) as a vital training tool. “It has always been essential in my trainings, so therefore I will continue to develop these methods as a major ingredient in our classes,” he says. Similar to Marriott’s Spirit to Serve, Starwood is now pushing its Achieving Service Excellence training programme in the Middle East. Championing this for the Doha market is Maged Gharib, training manager at the Sheraton Hotel Doha and winner of this year’s President’s Award. “The Achieving Service Excellence programme covers all the basic skills to serve our customers, and impact our goal to delight the guests,” Gharib says. Starwood also offers Leadership at Sheraton, Time Management and Improving Communication Skills courses, to name a few. “All the content of these courses heavily impact the customer. These courses teach how to serve our guests better at all times,” Gharib explains. According to Marriott’s Kaas, all training programmes are vital, “as long as the training is relevant and is followed in a logical order then the importance keeps growing. “If you put an associate on supervisory training then ask him/her to go on telephone techniques, that might not be very relevant, however if that associate then moves onto Foundations of Leadership then the level of importance will rise,” Kaas says. He also urges all managers to take accountability for the training of the associates who report to them. “This includes pre and post evaluations, making time available for the associates to attend, and regularly challenging the associates to put into practice what they have learned from their various training classes,” he says. Gharib also urges management support. “The key to improve the training in any hotel or organisation is to be supported at all time from the top management and department heads to find the time for their staff to participate in the training,” he maintains. With educational institutes and tourism organisations providing improved facilities, and hotels focussing more on in-house motivational programmes, the region looks on track to providing A-grade service for the years ahead.||**||

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