Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has applauded the Sandals group for the move to establish a corporate university for the training of employees.
Through investment of US$5 million and in partnership with locally and internationally-recognised training institutions, the more than 10,000 employees of the 17 Sandals resorts throughout the region, will benefit from basic hospitality-specific training and professional certification covering an array of disciplines.
Addressing three other regional Heads of Government and stakeholders in the tourism sector on the March 21 launch held at the Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort in Ocho Rios, Mrs. Simpson Miller described the move as an “innovative step” and encouraged the employees to take full advantage of the training opportunities to be provided.
She stated that the programmes of training will prepare Caribbean people in the hospitality industry and help them attain higher levels of competence.
The Prime Minister, in welcoming the regional leaders, said that Sandals is truly a Caribbean institution, and has played a significant role in diversifying and strengthening the Caribbean tourism product.
She said that the decision by Sandals to establish a university is not surprising, given that Chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart has long invested in the training and development of his staff.
Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Hon. Dr. Kenny Anthony, who delivered the main address, said that the development is a milestone for Caribbean tourism and marked a transitioning and repositioning of one of the leading areas of economic activity in the region.
“The establishment of this Sandals Corporate University confirms that the sector has come of age. Only 15 to 20 years ago, tourism was considered a distant second or in some cases, a third place on the ladder of economic importance. By taking such a bold step, Sandals International not only reaffirms its commitment to the growth of the tourism sector, but also sends a clear message about its confidence in the future of this industry,” Dr. Anthony said.
The St. Lucian Prime Minister stated that the management of Sandals has always believed that the key to making tourism succeed is to invest in the people, who work in the sector.
“It is not the splendor of buildings that make the product. It is the simple, ordinary worker that meets, greets and interacts with guests. In the tourism industry, human capital is the most valuable asset. By establishing this corporate university, Sandals understands that the industry cannot survive without innovation and investment in people,” he stated.
Other Caribbean Heads of Government at the launch and who gave their endorsement of the project were: Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Hon. Hubert Ingraham, and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Baldwin Spencer.
The first of its kind in the region, the corporate university will certify staff members without formal academic qualifications and provide qualified team members with an avenue to advance their education.
The courses will be offered through partnerships with internationally recognised Ryerson University in Canada, Western Hospitality Institute in Jamaica and the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), which will provide classes in Mathematics and English, for those in pursuit of high school equivalency.
Sandals has established annual scholarship funds valued at US$200,000, along with open scholarship opportunities.
By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter