SL’s hotels sector has 100,000 jobs on offer, but there are no takers


By Steve A. Morrell

The shocking revelation that 100,000 jobs were available in the hotels sector but youngsters were not interested in aspiring for employment in the trade, it was revealed at the ‘Tourism Workforce Competitiveness Roadmap’ convened by the Private Sector Tourism Skills Committee (TSC) in Colombo last week.

Although attendant skills, including languages, English and some Foreign languages were part of the curriculum, youth showed disinterest in joining hotels or in the larger aspect of tourism, it further transpired.

Chairman/MD, Jetwing Hotels, Hiran Cooray, representing the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, said in an introductory presentation, that shortage of manpower in the hotels sector was a quite alarming position, which necessitated intense examination.

The Roadmap of the TSC was timely and its innovative approaches will necessarily need to concentrate on serious alternatives that would and could be feasible in the best interests of the tourism industry. The tourism skills committee will need to overcome the negative position if improvement was to be envisaged, he suggested.

USAID Funding Committee’s message from Reed Aeschliman was that the Roadmap was driven by the TSC with the support of the Technical Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) of the Ministry of Science, Technology Research Skills Development and Vocational Training & Kandyan Heritage, and the Youth Employment (YouLead) programme. The project valued at US$ 12 million funded by USAID was implemented by International Executive Service Corps (IESC).

Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, in a televised presentation said that India and China were countries which accounted for large numbers in tourist arrival. Considering training and employment, the US and Sri Lanka bi-lateral trade agreements spread over 60 years.

US assistance in such areas of financing was in excess of Rs. 300 billion. Education and infrastructure, based on current needs, simultaneously conducted in a not – for – profit position, but through public and private sector joint efforts for vibrant approaches to allay doubts that these sectors could work together. Training and management would support the Roadmap, he said.

Chairperson, Private Sector Tourism Skills Committee, and Director, Dilmah Tea, Malik Fernando, presenting the subject ‘Private Sector Initiatives to create World Class Tourism Workforce’, said quite unfortunately, youth do not want to work in tourism. More to the point, only 10 percent in the hotels sector were women.

Although jobs and employment were available, and that the sector could absorb 100,000 persons for prospective employment, the factual position was there were no takers for these jobs. Although the need to absorb this number was a growing phenomenon, only about 10,000 were being trained, he noted.

The tourism sector contributed around 12 percent to the GDP. Its contribution to foreign exchange earnings were substantial. It is now imperative that the sector reaches out to youth and parents to defuse any cultural preconceptions that hotels were a ‘non–employment’, area. Plans were that the Roadmap should reach five million youth, Fernando elaborated.

He stressed that the time was now opportune that Sri Lankans working abroad be attracted back into the sector to enhance possible Brain Gain.

"The tourism industry worldwide was a US$ 4 billion earner. The Roadmap would ensure our laid – back position should be defused to enhance a more vibrant position and be part of these earnings", he said.

Panelists at the discussion were Malik Fernando, (Vice Chair), MD, Jetwing Travels, Shiromal Cooray, Chairman, SLTDA, Kavan Ratnayaka, Chairman/MD, Mount Lavinia Hotel & President, The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), Sanath Ukwatte, Tourism Consultant, YouLead, Srilal Miththapala and Tourism Consultant, YouLead, James MacGregor.

The Panel discussion was moderated by Savithri Rodrigo.

Sanath Ukwatte, said THASL had already moved in the direction of youth mobilization through school principals. Quite recently, through the good offices of GM, Thimothy Wright, 250 school principals were hosted by the Shangri – La Hotel, where it was explained that the hotels were an attractive job option that should be pursued by parents and students.

"The responses were good", he said.

Shiromal Cooray answering questions on Tamil youth being attracted to the hotels sector, said that Jetwing Hotel in Jaffna employed Tamil youth. They were also absorbed in the recruitment drive.

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