The mandate was straightforward: develop
and create a program to place young Caymanians in the hospitality
industry, where traditionally they have been underrepresented,
according to Charles Clifford, the Cayman Islands' minister of
Thus, the Tourism
Apprenticeship Training Program was born, beginning its pilot year
on Sept. 10 with a class of 20 Caymanians, many of them fresh out
of high school and others already in the industry and trying to
advance their careers.
embarked on a one-year, intensive course to set them on a path
toward one of four occupations in a career in the hospitality
industry: food preparation, food-and-beverage operations,
front-office operations and housekeeping (beginning at a
The 20 apprentices
were selected from among a wider pool of applicants by an
Apprentice Council made up of private sector representatives. Each
of the 20 apprentices received one-year scholarship packages valued
at between $12,250 and $18,375, depending upon which of the four
career routes they selected.
covered tuition, uniforms, laptops and materials.
"The program is
designed to create a cadre of Caymanian hospitality professionals
in occupations traditionally underrepresented by Caymanians but
with respectable compensation levels and career potential,"
Clifford said. "Apprentices should walk away at the end of the
school year with the technical skills and work experience necessary
to succeed in today's fast-paced tourism industry."
The program also
hopes to guarantee a supply of Caymanian workers "who will raise
the level of professional competency within the tourism workforce,
bring a distinct cultural flavor to local tourism products and
services and give much needed stability to the industry," said
The 38-week course,
based on the philosophy of learning by doing, combines on-the-job
training with classroom instruction. The program is divided into
three stages, according to Sharon Banfield, the Cayman Islands'
deputy director of tourism product development.
The first stage,
which runs from September to mid-December, centers on classes
conducted at the University College of the Cayman Islands in George
Town and at the International College of the Cayman Islands in
Newlands, in the East End district of Grand Cayman.
The courses are
taught by hospitality instructors and other faculty members at both
foundation courses in six areas deemed to be important for an
apprentice to master before venturing on to join the work force,"
The courses include
computer knowledge; communications; customer service; basic math
skills; tourism studies with a focus on the importance of tourism
to the local economy and of the benefits derived from practicing
sustainable tourism; and professional, personal and workplace
development, with an emphasis on public speaking, time management
The class day runs
from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
In the second stage
from January through April, each of the 20 apprentices will enter
one of the four areas of concentration they selected during the
"This stage is a
mix of classroom and lab work, covering core competencies and
technical skills required for each occupation," Banfield said. "The
class day is longer because the apprentices will be making site
visits and establishing contacts with the private
The labs simulate a
working environment. For food preparation, for example, a chef
takes the apprentice through all the paces, using materials and
equipment needed for that occupation.
In the final stage
from May through August, apprentices gain experience working at
hotels and restaurants on Grand Cayman. Each receives a salary as
if they were full-time employees of that facility.
school year, each apprentice is guided by a mentor, who assesses
the student's progress and makes recommendations.
"We have people
from the private sector who serve as mentors, and we have a career
guidance program to assist apprentices who may be lagging behind in
certain areas," Banfield said. "No one gets behind."
take and pass a final exam administered by CaribCert, a
professional certification program designed for the Caribbean
tourism industry, based on standards established for 45 occupations
in the tourism and hospitality industries.
An apprentice can
retake the exam one time if a passing grade is not met on the first
year, we are stressing the seriousness of this program," Banfield
said. "This is a full-time course, and each apprentice has to
complete the entire program in order to graduate, attend 90% of the
classes and pass at least 85% of the course work."
Clifford said the
CaribCert certification is a "sign of a competent industry
professionals are skilled and proud employees who consistently
exceed guests' expectations, which boosts repeat visits and higher
profits," he said.
Based on positive
results from the first year, tourism officials plan to repeat and
possibly expand the Tourism Apprenticeship Training Program next
"This is a
renewable program," Banfield said. "Feedback from the private
sector and the apprentices themselves will help shape new areas of
study and focus."
A Web site
detailing the program as well as marketing materials are in the
works, as well.
contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].