Securing a future through training
In May 2009, 40 young Maldivians sat down in a lecture hall on the island of Hudhuran Fushi to begin an 18-month course that will change their lives. They were selected from a hundred applicants for a coveted place at the Adaaran Centre for Hospitality Studies, affiliated to the Maldives College of Higher Education.
The Centre was started by Adaaran as part of the integral approach to resort management with a vision going beyond property infrastructure to include investment in human resources as well. While many resort developers concentrate on producing better accommodation to attract guests and then hire qualified staff from other resorts, Adaaran has developed a comprehensive training programme for beginners.
This is in keeping with the policy of the Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture of the Maldives, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad. In an interview he stated: “While we have invested a lot of effort and money in the development of high-end premium resort products, we have not given adequate attention into training and developing personnel (particularly local Maldivian personnel) who will man these resort facilities.”
He added, “As a facilitator and regulator, the Government is acutely aware of this shortfall and we are gearing our policies in developing world class hospitality and staff facilities in the country…through the development of exclusive resort staff training resorts…we are keenly pursuing this development in order to ensure that the training resorts provide the high quality service that the Maldivian resorts are known to provide to tourists.”
The Principal of the Adaaran Centre for Hospitality Studies built at the Adaaran Select Hudhuran Fushi resort is Mohamed Asim, an experienced Maldivian hospitality lecturer and former chef. He speaks with passion and enthusiasm about what the Centre does and is dedicated to inspiring both experienced resort staff and beginners. The 18-month course now underway is the successor to two earlier, shorter courses that resulted in the graduates all finding jobs in the hospitality industry.
“We don’t insist the students work at an Adaaran resort when they graduate from the course,” says Asim surprisingly. “They are not bonded and we expect some of them will move on to other resorts. We are doing this for the industry.”
He could also add that he is doing it for the Maldives too, since all those who have taken courses at the Centre have changed because of their studies. “At first,” says Asim, “mothers were reluctant to send children, especially their daughters, to the Centre. Yet when the students go on leave, the parents see how they have changed for the better. That’s because the students learn about dressing well, accepting job discipline and routine, and are advised on personal hygiene, nutrition and health, not just career studies.”
To recruit students for the current course, Asim visited many islands in the north and south of the archipelago. “I took graduates from previous courses with me and they told the parents, and their children, about the course and the living conditions at Hudhuran Fushi. Their success on previous courses helped reassure the parents and convinced them of its value.”
The courses are held in the purpose-built Centre in the staff village of the Hudhuran Fushi resort. There are four lecture rooms, a library, a theatre, computer facilities and a recreation area. Students stay in modern accommodation, with separate quarters for females under the care of a matron. They have two days off a week and can visit Male’ occasionally if their parents agree. “We take very good care of them,” says Asim, “and parents know they are safe here.”
The course – which is free – covers food & beverage, front office, housekeeping and cooking, as well as associated subjects such as foreign languages and even fire-fighting. Students also learn communication skills, customer care principles and how to be flexible while being a loyal and pro-active team member. Industry professionals and other experts visit to give lectures while Asim himself conducts the cookery classes.
“This is the only campus with commercial cookery programmes,” says Asim who is delighted that more Maldivian girls are taking up cooking, with 12 females graduating from the previous course. With only four percent of the Maldivian workforce at Adaaran resorts being female, Asim is keen to see more girls taking up careers in the industry.
He is assisted by Susantha Bandara who joined the Centre as Assistant Manager, Training & Development, after two years at Adaaran and a career in Food & Beverage at leading hotels in Colombo including Cinnamon Grand and Taj Samudra. Bandara explained that each student selected for the course is given a contract letter and a basic salary while studying. Bandara supervises on-the-job training so each student gets practical experience as well as theory. The Centre also conducts special courses for staff and management and runs the only butler training programme in the Maldives to a syllabus drawn up by the International Institute of Modern Butlers.
As well as being the Centre’s principal, Mohamed Asim has a dual role as General Manager of Human Resources for Adaaran, which gives him a valuable insight into staff problems. He believes in meeting and talking with all the staff, numbering some 1,200 in the seven Adaaran resorts, and visits every resort once a week. He listens to anyone who wants to talk so he can understand their problems and offer support and solutions. The most common issue, he says, is homesickness, as many staff are working far from their families.
Asim encourages staff not just to work as a team but to bond together as team members so that they can look upon their colleagues at Adaaran as their adopted family. The management philosophy is that, even if graduates leave Adaaran, wherever they work they will carry the knowledge, values and standards learned at the Adaaran Centre for Hospitality Studies with them throughout their careers, their future secured through their Adaaran training.
2009 – Ace Magazine Issue I