Investors have shown tremendous interest in setting up new tourism businesses in the country. Substantial investments have been approved by the government to develop new resorts in the East coast including Trincomalee which is well known to be one of the best beaches in Asia. Most of these resorts are tipped to be up market luxury resorts, increasing the demand for skilled workers in the tourism industry.
One of the key challenges facing Sri Lanka tourism today is the shortfall of skilled service personnel. Aitken Spence School of Hospitality in Ahungalla commenced operations in 2007, with a view to enhance the employability and skills of Sri Lankan youth for the hospitality industry.. The school was established by Aitken Spence Hotels with the assistance of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Hilfswerk.
A group of young men from the Eastern province, majority from Trincomalee was the most recent batch to enter the hospitality industry through the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality . This batch completed their training with practical sessions and hands on experiences at Heritance Kandalama. Some of the trainees explained that the highlight of their practical session were interactions with the other staff and the real customers, the tourists.
Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotels, commented on this initiative saying “The school was initially set up to recover from the Tsunami and assist locals in the Ahungalle region. However, since the ending of the war, our company has taken steps to assist the development in the North and the East as well as other rural areas in the country. Mr. Hapugoda also stated “What is most important for us in the industry is to transfer skills within a short period of time to fill the gap. Once the students have the basic skills and confidence they can easily join as stewards or stewardesses, to further improve and learn through on the job training and subsequently specialise in areas of their choice”.
While the school provides free technical know how to young men and women of employable age, it also aims to groom them by building confidence. Key advantage for the students is that, they are provided with a rare opportunity to work in five star Aitken Spence Hotels in Sri Lanka and thus gain valuable overseas exposure through the Group’s hotels in the Maldives, India and Oman. Most of the trainees are employed by Aitken Spence Hotels at the completion of their training. Some of our students have secured employment abroad while a few others have ventured in to establishing their own hospitality related micro businesses.
The company was privileged to be associated with USAID with this particular programme in assisting the youth of the Eastern Province. The significance of this batch of trainees was that it provided an opportunity for the youth of the North Eastern province to interact with youth of other parts of the country. By participating in practical sessions conducted in Aitken Spence hotels they were able to socially network and interact with the rest of the community.
Ms. Melani Schultz, Chief of Party for USAID/CORE said “USAID through its Connecting Regional Economies Project has partnered with four major hotel chains in Sri Lanka, including Aitken Spence. A partnership with Aitken Spence was formalised because of its excellent reputation in the tourism sector and its high calibre hospitality training programme. We are proud to see the success of the Aitken Spence programme with every trainee completing the 3-month courses. We wish continued success to the new batch of trainees from Moneragala and Ampara and to the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality”
Mr. Amal Nanayakkara, General Manager, Training of Aitken Spence Hotels was very happy to announce that a new batch of twenty nine students, mostly from Moneragala and Ampara districts also with the assistance from the USAID/CORE project, entered the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality on 15th of July 2010. Mr. Nanayakkara said “The School gives opportunities to unemployed school leavers, aged between eighteen and twenty four, with GCE Ordinary Level qualifications”,
The school is committed to training youth on the basic concepts of hospitality on short-term courses. These short term courses of three months have paved the way for many talented young men and women to gain entry in to the hospitality sector.
Media Release – 28 July 2010