THIRTY young people from the Eastern Cape have been given the chance of a lifetime to enter the hospitality trade, in a new partnership programme funded by the government. The programme was officially launched this week in Bathurst and Grahamstown, where a section 21 company, Hospitality Youth Initiative (HYI). has been based for eight years.
Speaking at the Bathurst event, Tourism Department Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa said government could not solve by itself South Africa’s problem of youth unemployment, which is why it is forming partnerships with other groups working on the same issue.
Tourism has been positioned as one of the key economic drivers in South Africa with a view to address unemployment and poverty, she noted.
“The new Growth Path also expects the tourism sector to create 225000 jobs and this HYI initiative will play a critical role here.”
The training will be done by HYI, the funding will come from an R8-million budget set aside by the national tourism department and the other two “legs of the table” are the private hotels, lodges and B&Bs that give show-and-tell and on-the-job training, and the students themselves, HYI community liaison officer Howard Drakes said yesterday.
Three hundred students from around the country have been enrolled in the seven-month pilot programme and 200 have already completed the Eastern Cape leg of the course and are now back in their home provinces starting their six-month apprenticeships in the workplace.
“The second lot of 100 students are with us right now learning about the soft skills which are so key in the hospitality sector.”
These “soft skills” include attitude, communication, and leadership, he said.
“Anyone can be taught to make a bed, answer a phone or cook an egg but the soft skills are fundamental to being successful in the hospitality industry.”
The Eastern Cape students come from rural and urban homes across the province. Some of the least likely candidates have proved themselves on past HYI courses and are now doing well, he said.
“One of the most memorable was a young woman from a child-headed household – she now works in a five-star establishment in London. The reason she succeeded was because she was hungry to learn and she seized the opportunities presented to her.”
For the leadership component, the students are taken out of the classroom into the hills around Grahamstown, he said.
“The idea is to take them out of their comfort zone, as a metaphor for the challenges that they will face in the workplace.”
During this initial component of the course, the students also learn about daily life issues like AIDS. They are also taught how to compile a CV.
HYI source the students, who are aged 18-35 years old, through their links with youth groups and the data bases of the different provincial tourism departments. There are typically more people on their courses from Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal but this is because tourism traffic is heavier in these provinces and there are more hospital establishment partners who have made on-the-job training available, Drakes said.
“We take care to partner with only quality establishments to ensure only good habits, training and ethos are learned by the students.”
If the students work successfully through this last leg, they will emerge with a certificate, ideally set to get a full-time job in the hospitality market – if not with their immediate host.
Before the students leave for this apprenticeship, however, they are given an introduction to the real thing through shift work at HYI’s local hospitality partners in Grahamstown and Bathurst.
Drakes said HYI was happy with being in these two sleeping Eastern Cape towns instead of in the throng of South Africa’s main tourism market.
“Many of the students have never been out of their home province. This is a way of communicating to them an important thing: South African tourism is not just about Table Mountain and Kruger National Park. It is also about these lovely smaller places.
“There are also less distractions for them here.”
Department spokesman Lizzy Suping said the aim of the programme was to give youth the way to find “meaningful employment.
“(It) is aimed at creating a culture of customer service in the industry, to deliver a positive, memorable experience to our customers.”