uTech Gets Teaching Hotel
The University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), has made yet another stride in its ongoing development with the addition of a learning-teaching hotel (lodging and culinary-training facility) that will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and gadgets to train students in its School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM).
The 10-bedroom facility (eight rooms and one suite) is the culmination of efforts from the university, the Government of Jamaica and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as part of its Caribbean Development Enhancement Project. Also in development is the Kier Shared Facility Building, which will house many faculties and disciplines within the school. Estimates project a final cost exceeding $300 million.
The building covers an elegant, sprawling 20,000-square-foot space meticulously designed to mimic the layout and aesthetics of a real hotel. In an attempt to align the standards and capabilities of the university's training and teaching facilities in the art of culinary preparation, the new building has 8,000 square feet of culinary labs where students will receive first-class, hands-on instruction.
Also in the building are lecture theatres with their own entrances that cater to the disabled and with a seating capacity of 70, a walk-in fridge, butchery, delivery area, styling area, demonstration lab, bathrooms, and more.
Gaunette Sinclair-Maragh, PhD, head of the SHTM, said the greatest challenge being faced at this time is the inadequacy of teaching laboratory space for culinary, dining room and baking modules.
"Over the past five years, there has been an increase in the number of students applying for the Food Service Management course of study. This course comprises the majority of practical classes which posed a major challenge to the existing facility. Furthermore, the students have a preference for the culinary arts and management major. This trend is driven by global interest in related areas such as gastronomy tourism, food styling, food shows, and culinary tours, among other emerging interests, Sinclair-Maragh told The Gleaner during a recent tour of the facility.
The addition the lodging and culinary training facility now positions UTech as having the most advanced institution of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean. "No other institution in the English-speaking Caribbean has the extent of these facilities. There is no need to go to culinary schools in North America; everything here will be first class," said Nigel Cooper, lecturer at SHTM.
Sinclair-Maragh, head of SHTM, further stated that, "Many of our students will receive opportunities to work all over the world, and we want them to be trained to handle these situations. She explained that the new hotel will allow the SHTM to compete with any university in the region, and will be better able to provide a comprehensive, world-class culinary and service-oriented education to students.
She told The Gleaner that the new accommodation and culinary facility would definitely ease this challenge of space and would allow the school to further increase its intake. Alongside this is the need to have current and state-of-the-art equipment and other resources for the demonstration laboratory, the dining room and bar, and the bedrooms and suites.
"The SHTM wants to ensure that this facility will meet the requirements of the curriculum, which has been revised according to industry standards, not only locally but globally. The hotel was handed over to the university in September 2014, but furniture and equipment are not yet in place," she said.
Among the challenges faced by the university is the rising cost of its daily operations. So in an attempt to mitigate the cost of international exposure for students, the university now brings internationally renowned instructors to Jamaica rather than send students overseas. This offers the benefit of cultural exposure without the high cost.
However, it is also hoped that with the addition of the facility and more living arrangements for students, the future guests of the hotel will be exposed to the highest quality of service available in the Caribbean while students learn the tricks and trades of hospitality industry.
Sinclair-Maragh said that all aspects of the hotel management will continue to be handled by dedicated staff/students who will work under the careful supervision and tutelage of world-class chefs and instructors at the university.
The hotel will be available to the public when it is eventually completed. The facility is also built to accommodate an additional 20 rooms.