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2005-05-16 04:15:31

BHA Leader Discusses Tourism Workforce Development In Abaco

The task force has been formulating a comprehensive local curriculum that includes an apprenticeship programme and soliciting insight from industry leaders.

Executive Vice-president of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) Frank J. Comito told a group of tourism professionals and educators that, with respect to competitiveness derived from trade liberalization in the global environment, "our lack of competitiveness ... was attributed more to the internal kinds of things that we can control, rather than external forces globally."

Mr. Comito was discussing various options for workforce development in the tourism industry during a round table forum with members of the Education and Training Task Force of the Ministry of Tourism, Abaco at Mangoes Restaurant in Marsh Harbour yesterday morning.

The task force, which advises the ministry on strategies to improve workforce quality through education and training as part of Abaco's 10-year tourism development plan, has been formulating a comprehensive local curriculum that includes an apprenticeship programme, and has been soliciting insight from industry leaders such as Mr. Comito.

Mr. Comito, who was accompanied by Sammy Gardiner, senior director of Education in the Ministry of Tourism, was invited to address the group by Jeritzen Outten, director of tourism, Abaco.

Mr. Comito made the remark about competitiveness in the context of sharing with the taskforce the experience of the BHA in developing with the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Education, a cooperative tourism task force on education, whose general purpose is to "build a core curriculum in the schools that more adequately addresses tourism industry needs in preparing students for careers in hospitality."

Mr. Comito also shared with the task force, the BHA's 2005 Strategic Plan on Workforce Development, which include customer service training workshops; employee certification programmes in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel Association; a hospitality industry human resources needs assessment; work with the Tourism Task force on Education; the Bahamas Education and Training for Competitiveness Project (ETC); and BHA's scholarship initiatives.

Members of the local task force also learned from Mr. Comito about his organization's "Bridge to Success" programme, a goal which is "to close the growing skills gap by providing employers with an expanded pool of entry-level talent and individuals who are prepared and anxious to succeed in their industry."

The core aspect of this programme - 12 weeks of training designed to prepare individuals upon successful completion to enter a range of entry-level positions in the hospitality industry - is of interest to several task force members as a potentially relevant approach to training here in Abaco.

Members of the task force, which is facilitated by Indira Edwards, coordinator of industry training in the Abaco tourist office, include hoteliers, restaurateurs, a master chef, staff from the Ministry of Education, including District Super-intendent Rudolph Smith, and media professionals.

Mr. Gardiner, who was instrumental in helping to establish a tourism office in Abaco when he was Northern Region director for the Ministry of Tourism, praised the task force volunteers and Mrs. Outten and her team for making such a conscious effort to plan for future staff development in the industry. He said he would like to see Abaco emerge as a prototype for industry development outside of Nassau.

"We expect great things to come out of Abaco," Mr. Gardiner said, "so much so that we may not always look at Nassau as the successful prototype. What we see happening here is really something that we are still a little bit struggling to get off the ground in Nassau. So I'm happy to see that Mr. Comito, who is the workhorse, is here; and Frank, if it's possible, for Abaco to be the prototype in any manner, let's not hesitate to do that."

Mr. Comito expressed a keen interest in working with Abaco industry leaders, especially in developing their training proposal, which he said dovetails in many aspects with some of BHA's initiatives.

By RICHARD E. FAWKES, Freeport News Reporter

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