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Enhancing the skills of workers and improving service delivery are two main objectives of Team Jamaica, a training and certification programme conducted by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) for persons employed or associated with the hospitality and tourism sector.

“This is a move for quality service improvement and seeks to provide tourism personnel with the knowledge, interpersonal skills and attitude for the delivery of quality service,” notes Acting Executive Training Manager for TPDCo, Beverley Price.

The programme, which was developed in 1997, is very extensive, covering areas such as: tourism awareness, customer service, Jamaican history, geography, attractions, culture (cuisine and music) and environmental awareness.

The Training Manager says the tourism sector has responded quite favourably to the programme, with close to 50,000 persons obtaining certification since the programme’s inception.

Participants are engaged in interactive sessions, role plays, video viewing and given a handbook, which highlights Jamaica’s heritage, culture and practices.

Miss Price explains that over the years the programme has been modified to depict trends and current happenings within the industry and has some amount of flexibility in order to facilitate tourism personnel.

“We have reduced the programme from 40 hours to 24 hours, due to the industry request and problems with man-power demands, but we have managed to do so without affecting the integrity and quality of the programme,” the Training Manager explains.

She points out that the sessions are conducted six continuous days, four hours per day, but can be further customized to meet an entity’s needs, if they experience challenges with the suggested times.

“We try to customize the delivery methods to facilitate the industry partners, so if they are unable to do six continuous days, we also deliver the programme to suit the company’s or individual’s availability and schedule… so it might be two weeks, three days per week or two days over a three week period,” Miss Price tells JIS News.

She notes that TPDCo facilitates the sessions at its locations in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Kingston and Mandeville or conducts in-house training for the staff at various hotels.

In addition to workers within the tourism sector, the training programme is also pursued by hospitality students at the universities, community colleges and HEART Trust/NTA, who utilize the CD-ROM self-teaching method, instead of attending the sessions.

This CD-ROM has text, images and questions and gives more flexibility to the delivery and learning of the programme.

“At the end of the period, depending on the arrangement we have with these institutions, we will go in and assess the students, based on the criteria that TPDCo has for assessment and via this route, they can be certified,” Miss Price says.

Persons who choose the classroom method, on completion of their 24 hours, are also given an assessment which includes a five-minute presentation on areas which were covered during the sessions. All participants who have successfully completed the programme, receive a Team Jamaica certificate.

In order to expand the reach of the programme, Miss Price explains that discussions are being held with tourism partners, consultants and private institutions to deliver the programme on TPDCo’s behalf, especially to make the programme more accessible to individuals located outside of the resort areas and tourism centres.

“We have a cadre of instructors and those who have expressed an interest to assist, we are getting into an approved training partnership with them to deliver the programme,” she reveals.

In terms of the benefits, she says that “once participants have completed the programme, they are better able to demonstrate their ability to interact with visitors in a positive way, they have an increased awareness of Jamaica’s tourism product and are better able to promote brand Jamaica.”

The Team Jamaica training and certification programme has three levels: level one for team members; level two for supervisors or team coaches, and level three for team trainers. Persons must complete the first level in order to move on to all the other levels.

For further information on the Team Jamaica programme, persons can contact TPDCo at 974-7705 or visit the website at: www.tpdco.org.

By Kadian Brown, JIS Reporter