Training requirements for the workforce in the hospitality sector are diverse and demanding. The curriculum and training delivery is expected to meet global standards. It is here that the role of an international resource provider gains tremendous importance in offering industry-oriented programs and supporting the evolving skills ecosystem in India. In this Skill Story, Dennie Matthews, Chief Managing Officer at American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) shares his insights on the development of course work, training and professional certification for the training of the workforce in the hospitality sector in India.
Q: Tell us about AHLEI and its role in Indian Hospitality education and training.
A: AHLEI is one of the world’s leading hospitality education and training programs and resource providers focusing on Hospitality Operations. We have partners, users, and beneficiaries across 55+ countries and we’ve been present in India since 1994. We work across sub-sectors of industry training requirements, academic partners and workforce development/skill emphasized programs. All our programs are available unrestricted in India and we have had the privilege of having a good acceptance here as our programs are created by the industry for academia. Our programs are a major departure from usual programs available in the market, which has the reverse input for academic programs. Our courses are contemporary, precise and practical in its content and approach.
Q: Why is certification important for hospitality professionals?
A: Professional Certification is a relatively new thought in India. Though we have been offering our certification programs from the beginning, there was always a dichotomy in the market in its ability to discern between academic programs and professional certifications. Professional certification is of two things – a credentialing of your current position and skills; and a part of continuing professional education. There is no doubt that hospitality professionals need up-skilling and Professional Certification is the answer to it. AHLEI is in the leading position when it comes to Professional Certification as our programs are contemporary and they represent the industry.
AHLEI has a small basket of programs in about six areas for skill development in hospitality operations. Besides, there are a few niche skilling programs in Guest Service, Unbiased Consciousness, etc. The operational skill certifications are very popular in India and we have several hotel chains using them extensively for their training and certification of their employees. Some have even commented on their ability to be a good arrester of attrition as employees are keen on these quality certification programs. Some of these programs are currently being mapped by us to fit into the NSQF framework for wider usage and acceptance.
Q: How does training and skill certification making a difference in the careers of people who are already in the hospitality sector?
A: A program is as good as the outcome for the user, which in this case would be landing the right jobs. We have several testimonials of past students who have found our program to be helpful as there were able to find appropriate jobs after graduating. Moreover, potential employers are aware and of our programs and recognize our certifications. I think this feedback from the industry is what gives us confidence that we are running successful training and skill certification programs.
Q: How is your model of training and certification different from other hospitality institutes?
A: We are not in the business of delivering our certification programs but we have partner schools and training centres which adapt our programs and deliver at their centres. We give our partners a lot of flexibility in terms of delivery patterns and length of programs to adapt to their particular student group capabilities in learning.
For us the maxim of hospitality education and training is quality content + quality facilitation = successful student. In general, both the student and academic partners like the overall approach and catalogue of programs prepared for potential disruption in new roles and needs emerging in the industry.
Q: How do you ensure that the curriculum is up-to-date and caters to the industry needs?
A: Our programs are completely developed by our Product Development team in Orlando and Chicago, USA. Since the organization is a part of the Hotel and Restaurant Associations, we use the best of CXO inputs coupled with our Education Council, which takes an active interest in ensuring that programs are not only contemporary but relevant to the latest requirements in the industry.
Q: How is AHLEI addressing the industry demand in the hospitality industry?
A: The need for the industry is not only capacity building but qualitative, upskilled and committed workforce development. Our involvement is beyond providing courseware and training resources by being consultative in our approach in assisting our customer base with making the right choices based on our extensive market feedback on potential areas where workforce development is required. We also are involved in Train the Trainer mission, something very critical in getting instructors trained well, as their development has a cascading impact on their student learning and its outcomes.
Related Article: Skills and Jobs: Job Roles in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry – Read more: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/skills-and-jobs-tourism-hospitality/
Q: Could you tell us about the innovative initiative “START”?
A: START is our skill certification portfolio. It stands for Skills, Tasks and Results Training. These programs stand out as 80% of the emphasis is on job description and practicals on the job role requires training. This makes it also easier to roll out these critical operational programs where the English language is a constraint and helps skilled students trained on the START to pass the certification exam in a comparatively easier manner.
Q: How does AHLEI partner educational and training institutions in India?
A: We currently have a mix of Universities, Hospitality Schools and Training Institutes. They are about 35 in number and are spread across India. They offer a multi-level program either as a stand-alone specialized course or as an integrated course or as a value-added proposition to their students. Specialized certifications in Guest Service are also opened in India as a finishing school program for the soon-to-be graduating students. This will give them an advantage as they the competitive job market.
Q: How do you ensure the practical learning experience for the students?
A: Our partners design and execute the practical learning portion of the program and most times it is improvised by providing students the chance to get a chance to work with the best hospitality chains for on-the-job training.