In a strategic move to counter the shortage of trained hospitality industry personnel, the state-run Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management opened a new training facility in the northern city of Jaffna recently.
The new facility aims to train youth in the former war ravaged region to take up lucrative jobs in the rapidly growing hospitality industry. Dozens of new hotels have opened up in the northern region in the recent past and many more are under construction at present. However the hotel industry in the region has been faced with a dilemma due to the acute shortage of trained personnel to operate these hotels at an acceptable standard.
“It is a well-known fact that unemployment is high in the north. At the same time hotels are finding it difficult to recruit qualified people to work in their hotels. This is a situation that requires urgent attention,” observed Minister of Tourism Development, John Amaratunga who mooted the idea of setting up a SLITHM training facility in Jaffna.
“The youth in the area do not favour travelling to the south to obtain training. This is understandable. Given this scenario the best thing we could do to address this issue is to reach out to them,” explained Minister Amaratunga.
In the recent past SLITHM has identified demand for human resources especially in popular and upcoming tourist destinations and established training facilities at these locations. In line with this policy new training schools have been established in Hambantota, Passikudah, Negomboand Polonnaruwa in the recent past and now in Jaffna.
“The opening of the SLITHM training facility in Jaffna is consistent with our policy of setting up hotel schools in popular tourism destinations. This is a concept of the Hon. Minister of Tourism who, given the current shortage of trained hospitality personnel, believes that it is better for us to go where there is demand rather than expecting the youth to come to us. This policy has worked for us and SLITHM is proud to say that our combined annual student output will double from 3000 to 6000 from this year,” said Chairman, SLITHM, Sunil Dissanayake.
SLITHM Jaffna which is located at 3rd Cross Street has already commenced academic operations with a Hospitality Apprenticeship Course aimed atattracting unemployed youth to the tourism industry. SLITHM has join hands with World University Service Canada to conduct these classes.
Already 50 students including 10 females have enrolled for courses in Jaffna. On completion of the training programme these individuals can look forward to a rewarding career in the hospitality industry. The courses offered at the facility will lay the foundation for these youth to become gainfully employed and go on to become future managers in the hospitality industry.
The present temporary facility will make way for a fully-fledged hotel school that is to open in January 2018. It will conduct courses in hotel front office, food and beverage, professional cookery, hotel housekeeping, pastry and bakery, National Tourist Guide courses and language courses.
“We have succeeded in fulfilling a long felt need and social obligation. It is our hope that the youth in Jaffna will make full use of this training facility and contribute to the growth of the industry in this region,” noted Director General, SLITHM, Buddika Hewawasam.