Having completed a 3-month basic course in food and beverage, 27 trainees graduated from the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality in Ahungalla recently.
The graduation ceremony held on February 13th, in conjunction with a celebratory concert organized by the graduating students, was attended by representatives of Aitken Spence Hotels, CARE International Sri Lanka and Diageo.
These three partners come together through the “Skills for Youth” programme, aimed at providing marginalized youth with access to industry-standard training and an entry-point in to the thriving hospitality industry. Aitken Spence Hotels joined the programme last year in order to contribute skilled labour to the industry.
The company used their expertise and experience in moulding individuals and provided employment opportunities for these graduates within the industry. The training was conducted at the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality, with practical sessions at Heritance Ahungalla, Sri Lanka’s first five-star beach resort.
A special effort was made to recruit students, with an emphasis on women, from marginalized areas in and around Ahungalla in the hopes of encouraging more people in to the industry, especially targeting those who would not normally consider the leisure industry for a potential career path. CARE Sri Lanka’s Country Director, Gregory Brady elaborated, “With the shortage of skilled staff being a serious issue that the industry is facing, we see this programme as being mutually beneficial to the industry and the community. The youth beneficiaries need and appreciate these opportunities and, in turn, we are seeing considerably higher retention rates at the employer hotels. We have also been able to attract a much higher number of female trainees, more than doubling the current percentage of women employed in Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry. Working with industry partners like Aitken Spence has been crucial to making a success of this programme.”
Intensive training in English was provided, with the graduating trainees showing an impressive improvement in their grasp of the language. Additional life skills workshops were held to ensure a successful transition in to the working environment upon completion of training and taking up positions in star category hotels. Jeevaka Weerakone, Assistant VP of HR and Training & Development, commented, “The program was specially crafted to instill the required skills and attitudes of a hotelier. We are proud to spearhead this initiative and look forward to further developing the programme in the future.” Aitken Spence Hotels has committed to providing trainee positions within their hotels for all successful graduates.
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