October 28, 2015
Local training and staff development company Skills Bahamas Employment Agency (SBEA) yesterday announced a new partnership with a U.S. hospitality institute aimed at addressing and narrowing the skills gaps in The Bahamas' tourism sector and reducing hoteliers' dependence on foreign workers as new tourism developments come on stream.
SBEA Partner Charles Beneby stated that it was "pointless" to complain of basic human capital deficiencies within the tourism sector without adopting a "bottom-up" approach of skills development and certification without the need for employees to acquire further degrees. To that end, SBEA has partnered with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) to provide internationally recognized certification in guest services, lodging security and front desk representation as part of SBEA's new "UpSkill Bahamas" initiative. The first part of that initiative, according to Beneby, involves matching new and existing tourism stakeholders with the best potential workers through an employment screening exercise planned for November 2-4 at Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, which Beneby described as "a job fair on steroids".
"Part of what our country lacks is an organized, coherent database where we are actually involved in watching our workforce and take snapshots so that we can see trends or needs and anticipate gaps and begin the process of addressing gaps long before they occur.
"We believe that 'UpSkilling' Bahamian workers does two things. It attracts the right and relevant investors and it eliminates the need for us to continuously import competent workers," said Beneby, adding that the program would give "front-line employees" the necessary skills to assist company-wide growth.
Although the current partnership was been designed to increase the human capital of the tourism industry, Beneby told Guardian Business that SBEA hopes to eventual expand to meet the needs of other national employers.
"All strategies that we've been talking about in the past tend to be a top-down approach... not realizing that it is the folks at the entry level within the organization who have the greatest impact on the direction and the profitability of an organization and very little has been invested in lifting the bottom of the organization - that is the customer service area that we want to address.
"UpSkill has to do with those competencies that are needed at the bottom of an organization... that is non-degree focused, workplace-relevant and provides the individuals who participate in an UpSkilling with the requisite skills to develop themselves and ultimately the organization," he said.
Beginning on Monday, SBEA will begin the first set of screening applicants for a wide variety of positions available through SBEA's clients. Although Beneby did not wish to reveal SBEA's clients involved in the upcoming fair, he noted that the company would be representing several hotels expected to open in the near future. According to Beneby, connecting these hotels with the best potential employees was SBEA's top objective, particularly in the wake of Baha Mar's decision to terminate some 2,000 hospitality related positions last week.
"We've been approached by several businesses to give them competent persons within the hospitality industry. Their biggest fear is that they do not want to have people lining the street and blocking traffic in front of their businesses.
"They have a number of positions that they have available and even more so now with the changes that have happened recently at Baha Mar, one of their biggest fears is that they don't want half of Nassau out in front of their businesses. So what they've done is ask Skills Bahamas Employment Agency to handle the initial push for them," Beneby stated.
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