Mon | Dec 16, 2019

Jamaica struggling to find qualified workers – Negril hotelier

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 9:57 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (centre) shares a light moment ahead of the start of the 15th anniversary celebration of Sunset at the Palms Resort, in Negril, with managing director of the hotel, Ian Kerr (right), and President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Omar Robinson.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (centre) shares a light moment ahead of the start of the 15th anniversary celebration of Sunset at the Palms Resort, in Negril, with managing director of the hotel, Ian Kerr (right), and President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Omar Robinson.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Ian Kerr, managing director of Sunset at the Palms Resorts, in Negril, Westmoreland, says Jamaica’s tourism industry is struggling to find suitable hospitality workers to fill vacancies at all levels in the industry.

“I think we need to recognise that the industry has a serious problem in recruiting competent, dedicated managers and team members at all levels of the hospitality industry,” said Kerr, who was addressing the resort’s 15th anniversary gala celebration, which was attended by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, on Sunday night.

“We, together with the ministry, the JTB (Jamaica Tourist Board) and the JHTA (Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association), need to do all that is necessary to ensure that we are recruiting well-trained professionals for the industry because if we don’t, Jamaica will fall behind like so many other countries that guests visit and complain about the levels of service,” said Kerr.

“It is a known fact that you could build a golden palace resort, but if you don’t have team members providing the warm level of service, it makes absolutely no sense,” added Kerr.

However, clearly not in agreement with Kerr’s sentiments, Bartlett, who was the keynote speaker, declared that his ministry has been investing heavily in training at all levels of the sector as a deliberate effort to produce high-quality workers.

“Ian [Kerr], in his remarks, spoke about the quality of the workers in the industry and the need for a higher level of certified and qualified staff to take the senior position in the industry, and I share his position; but I want to emphasise that this is what was behind our new human capital policy, to begin with, and strategy that we have implemented,” said Bartlett.

According to Bartlett, in seeking to improve the quality of the Jamaican hospitality workforce, his ministry built on the Team Jamaica programme, which covers the rudiments of the nation’s culture, history, geography and civics in general.

“The second tier was what happened with Heart Trust/NTA, and the building out of entry-level certification for workers in the industry in almost every area,” said Bartlett.

He stated that his ministry, and the Government in general, is now looking at building out a new arrangement in terms of certification, qualification and the stackable credentials of the workers in the industry through the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation (JCTI), which is a pathway professional training and certification institution.

The tourism minister further noted that great cooks, and great chefs, who are not able to elevate themselves to become sous chefs because they are not certificated, have benefited from the JCTI programme.

“The JCTI has moved into the industry and has been training and providing certification with the American Hotel and Lodging Institute and the American Culinary Foundation, that has so far seen nearly 640 competent workers within the industry at the hotels,” Bartlett said.