“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) along with its partners and sponsors are promoting the theme “Tourism is Our Key”, as we transition from the COVID-19 economic disaster to what will become the new norm.
This is the eighth column in this series supporting the laudable CHTA initiative, which is in pre-launch phase. Linkages with tourism seem endless and today’s linkage with education and training speaks not only to the recovery process but to the sustainability of the industry.
We can lay a solid governance foundation, we can protect the industry financially, we can generate business through public relations, sales and marketing, and we can establish operational systems to foster increased efficiency and productivity, but we will not have a sustainable industry unless we develop our people, our most important resource, and match workforce supply and demand.
Parents, when they bring a child into this world, are preprogrammed by the existing educational system to achieve certain milestones like pre-school, primary school, common entrance to secondary school, CXC, CAPE and higher education. We often miss the opportunity to introduce sophisticated concepts in a simple way at an early age.
For example, we can (1) organize primary school quizzes to sensitize children about the “tourism business”, (2) coordinate essay or art competitions about “service versus servitude”, (3) mount challenge competitions for starting an enterprise, and (4) arrange internships/mentoring programs to stimulate talent from a young age.
Eleven-year-old Maria Marshall, an award-winning filmmaker in Barbados, whose World Children’s Day interview has gone viral, is an example of an interesting case in point.
The educational system, including schools, polytechnics, community colleges and universities, are focused on workforce supply and certification. Even though this output may be collated into an impressive statistical supply database for the institutions, there is a danger of generating a posse of “graduate unemployed”. We must modify the system to determine the demand first and then tailor the educational system to generate supply which matches demand. This is a major component of Singapore’s success. The tourism industry is a very important industry in the Caribbean. We should focus more on the education and training linkage.
We have seen how the tourism economic gearing system, driven by the arrival of tourists by air/sea and from far and wide, creates demand for hospitality services, and in turn generates employment. There are many enterprise development opportunities created by this system, but in preparation for this, a continued problem-solving system of mentoring and training of entrepreneurs, shepherds and fund managers must be in place to continually increase the rate of success of these enterprises.
We are in an information and technology age and the world is changing rapidly. It is mandatory that opportunities be put in place for continuing professional education.
Let us teach our children well from an early age so that when it becomes their turn to help drive our economies, they will be well-equipped to lead the way.