The announcement was made at a meeting with a second group of 25 Shannon graduates held at Botanical House on Thursday, November 18, to hear first-hand why less than 50% of the program’s graduates are still in the hospitality industry or the tourism sector and few of those who remain are holding management positions. Commenting that while Seychelles as a country does not lose when a graduate leaves the hospitality sector to work in another, the Minister said that this was not the intended objective of the program which risks not being met.
90 Seychellois have graduated so far from the four-year hospitality management program which includes three years at the Seychelles Tourism Academy and one final year at Shannon College in Ireland since the first students attended the Irish institution in 2012. The Minister expressed his wish to hear from the graduates their experiences in the workplace, the challenges they faced, what demoralized them and forced them to leave the industry as well as hearing their suggestions of possible solutions to reverse this situation.
The graduates highlighted a lack of development opportunities and monitoring of training programs, irregular or non-existent one-on-one sessions with supervisors and management to monitor progress and identify improvement requirements as well as a lack of engagement by mentors and the Ministry of Employment. Of those who are still in the industry, many are with the Hilton properties, a company that stood out for following through on the management training programs.
Graduates shared being passed over in favor of foreign employees when promotion opportunities presented themselves, of Seychellois supervisors perceiving them as threats to their own progress, being still on entry level packages after years of employment. Others spoke of there being no training plan, being denied opportunities to develop and not being groomed for management, driving them to leave and to work in other sectors including fisheries, insurance, and consumer protection, amongst others, despite their love of the industry.
Still others undergoing extended internships and management training detailed pressure brought to bear on them and their families by ANHRD to return to Seychelles immediately by and then being left to their own devices without employment on their return.
A few graduates detailed success stories, exhorting others that it is not enough to turn up, but to be committed and focused and take pride in their work, to uphold Shannon values in order to have a rewarding career in the industry.
After hearing the graduates’ accounts, the Minister complimented the graduates on their achievements and commented that the four-year training course was an intensive one before sharing his plan for the future to ensure that program attains its objectives of having a much higher percentage of Seychellois in management positions.
To do this, the minister stated that he would be establishing a more credible mentorship committee, the composition of which would be announced after meeting with a third and final group of Shannon graduates. “We want to change completely how the mentorship, training and supervision programs in hotels work,” Minister Radegonde said. “We are not saying some of the mentors are not serious, however, many are looking after their own interests. They may have their own people they wish to hold these posts or their very company philosophy may require that these management posts be held by a foreigner. So we must change this to put people on this committee who will really work with you and your colleagues to make sure you attain the predetermined levels of competence. You cannot change goal posts as you go along. We will have clear training plans, succession plans, and appoint people to ensure that these are monitored and implemented. We will monitor the work of this committee and what is going on in the establishment you are working in to ensure they stay honest to their commitments. A one-on-one progress meeting once a month is the minimum. We shall be holding one more meeting with the graduates after which we will be announcing the composition of the Mentorship Committee and our plans,” he shared.
Encouraging the graduates to persevere, Minister Radegonde said, “I want to encourage you, to tell you not to give up. Those who have left, who have taken up a job in a sector where they are happy, some who have started their own businesses or taken up other studies, Good Luck. You have to be happy doing what you want to do. But for those of you who are thinking of leaving, I want to tell you, not to give up now, hold on, we will be fixing things.” Promising an open-door policy by the Tourism department, he confirmed that the tourism department remains open to suggestions from the graduates. “Free to come towards us as well on about issues where we can help,” the Minister said.
Thanking the graduates for devoting time to the meeting, Principal Secretary for Tourism Sherin Francis complimented them for their achievement in graduating from a very demanding four-year course and for the balanced views they had expressed. “We wanted your views and suggestions to resume the program and bring the true meaning of the word mentorship to it. We need to identify the gaps, the strengths, and weaknesses. There will still be demand for foreigners in management positions – however, there should be a higher percentage of you in managerial positions,” PS Francis concluded.