JIS News

Tourism has always been of great importance to the Jamaican economy, because of its potential to generate foreign exchange and provide jobs.
Jamaican tourism workers have made a reputation for themselves internationally, which sees them in great demand, worldwide, as they are rated among the best in the world.
Within the tourism sector there are many different categories of workers, with the hotels catering to the largest amount. In most cases there is a need for those workers to have some form of specialty training to properly fit into the different aspects of a hotel operation.
Prior to 1986, Jamaican hotel workers would gain their formal training either from on the job experience, or from training institutions abroad. Since then, however, the HEART Trust/NTA, through its commitment the proper training of Jamaican workers to internationally accepted standards, has established the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel and Training Institute, located in Runaway Bay, St. Ann.
The institution has been quietly producing thousands of qualified professionals, fully equipped to fill the many positions in the various areas that may become available within the sector.
The institution, which is nestled in the cool hills of Cardiff Hall, Runaway Bay, is aptly described as a garden property with 56 luxurious rooms, famed for the warmth and sunshiny hospitality of its staff of young Jamaicans.
It has the reputation of being Jamaica’s only hotel with an affiliated training institute and, as such, the students at the training institute, which shares the same property space with the hotel, are integrally involved in the day to day operations of the hotel.
Acting General Manager of the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel and Training Institute, Shorna Newsome-Myrie, in an interview with JIS News, explains that the training institute aspect of the operations has grown over the years, from a facility accommodating just over 175 students per year, to one accommodating approximately 2,000 students, annually.
“We offer a variety of programmes, mainly in the culinary field. We offer programmes from level one, all the way up to level five. So you can start as an entry level cook and graduate as an Executive Chef,” she states.
“We also offer programmes in Front Office Operations, levels one to three, Food and Beverage Service, Housekeeping, Bartending and General Accounting. These are the programmes that we offer and they are offered at different levels,” she says.
She emphasizes that the highest accreditation available in the culinary area at the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel and Training Institute is offered in conjunction with the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the programme through which Chefs are trained up to an Executive Chef level.
She underscores the fact that the students at the training institute are very actively involved in the operations of the hotel, under the close supervision of a cadre of qualified staff employed to the hotel.
“As a Hotel and Training Institute, our mission is to train and certify the Jamaican workforce to international standards. We are a hospitality training institute, so the courses that we offer are hospitality based,” she points out.
She informs that the practical aspect of the training offered at the institute, ensures that, on graduation, the students are competent and ready for the workforce.
This is a view shared by Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who has expressed the opinion that the training institution serves a very critical role in developing the human capital within the tourism industry.
“The training facilities provided at entry level enable us to have shorter learning curve for new workers, and also gives us a platform on which to build the training modules for the future and to enhance the growth of the labour force within the industry,” he states.
He says that the hotel itself provides a useful hands-on experience for the trainees, and enables them to enter the workplace competent and ready to be productive.
In explaining how the different courses are structured at the training institution, Mrs. Myrie says that they vary from short two weeks courses, to part-time six-week short courses, to full-time programmes from six months to two years in length. Students can chose from any of the available courses based on their available time, she explaines.
“We have a very flexible training system, so persons who cannot come into our full-time programme can do something part-time. Especially with our high level programmes, because our target market are persons who are in the field working and are probably not certified. We try to offer the programmes, whether it’s a one day release programme or it is in the evenings when persons can go to work and still have an opportunity to complete their education,” she states.
The training institute also offers boarding facilities for up to 150 of its students, who may happen to live far from the institution and have travelling difficulties.
In 23 years of operation, there must have been some high points and low points, and Mrs. Myrie did not hesitate to mention the high points of the operation in her 10 years of involvement with the establishment.
“In 2002, we were recognised as the first Hotel with a training institute in the world to be Green Globe certified,” she boasts.
She noted that the property is an environmentally friendly one, with every effort being made to incorporate environmental best practices in the day to day operations. She says that due recognition was awarded to the institution and it has maintained that certification over the years.
“We have received several other awards, in 2005 we received the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) award for sustainable tourism, and the Carl Fabrige Award for excellent service, among others,” she states.
“So we have been able to enjoy various accolades over the years, and we continue to enjoy them and we are proud of the accomplishments, especially of our students who continue to do so well, even after they have left our halls at Runaway Bay”, she opines.
She made special mention of the current General Manager of the Runaway Bay Heart Hotel and Training Institute, Dr. Janet Dyer; Executive Chef and lecturer at the University of Technology (UTech), Carl Thomas; and 2008, Chef of the year, Brian Lumbley; among some of the top graduates of the Institute.
She says that several of the current lecturers at the institution were also trained there.
“We have been able to touch the lives of over 20,000 youngsters, to-date,” she boasts.
But, what do beneficiaries from the institution think of the institution?
Sous Chef at the Hotel and graduate of the training institution, Kirk Myers, tells JIS News that the Institute has been a place of development for him over the years.
He did the Culinary Institute of America programme, and is now a qualified Sous Chef. He has worked with some major hotel chains in Jamaica since graduation but thinks that coming back to the Runaway Bay Hotel is, probably, a dream come through.
Trainee, Dining Room Captain, Dowen Grant, who is from Portland, says that his training has helped in his personal development, describing it as an opportunity of a lifetime, for which he is grateful.
What lies in store for this one of a kind institution, one may ask?
Mrs. Myrie points out that major planning is taking place to further upgrade the institution to the status of a workforce college, or tertiary institution.
“We are moving from just being a training institution to the position of being a workforce college and a centre of excellence,” she states, explaining that this will ensure that they are even more polished when they leave.
She says it is hoped that those new developments will be in place by as early as September this year.

Skip to content