Just what we needed – Hospitality and Housekeeping Training in Gilgit and Skardu
When the first posters advertising the Hospitality and Housekeeping Training appeared on the streets of Gilgit and Skardu, they attracted much attention and stirred the interest of local youth. The organizers of the training: Alight Pakistan, TAF Foundation and Alama Iqbal Open University faced the hard task of choosing just 60 young men and women out of the many candidates who applied for the course.
In Gilgit Baltistan tourism is the industry on the rise. The mountainous Northern Areas have attracted local and foreign visitors for a long time, and with recent government-run tourism promotion campaign it is expected that places like Skardu would see even more travellers eager to explore the beauty of the mountains and the richness of the local culture. At the height of the season, it is already difficult to find a place to stay in the most popular destinations of the province and at times it feels like there is more tourists than the local industry could manage.
The skill development programme was designed as a hands-on training with students learning the tools of the trade of the hospitality industry at the venues. But convincing the local hotels to let the students behind the scenes was not easy. To begin with the managers were apprehensive about opening their kitchens, rooms, and utility areas for training, but as students proved themselves in the area of housekeeping and the managers recognized the benefits of the training, the collaboration thrived, and everybody was happy with the arrangement.
The students learnt the back and front of the house management, including front desk operation, cleaning the guest rooms, food service, interacting with the guest and the fundamentals of etiquette and presentation. They were extremely satisfied with the training and with the possibility to get first-hand experience of working in a hotel. That combined with the vocational training diploma endorsed by the AIOU will kickstart their career and facilitate professional development. But, as Saira Nizam from the TAF Foundation told me, many of the young men and women who participated in the training program are actually thinking of opening their own hotels and guesthouses, and they were very happy for the opportunity to learn from some of the most successful businesses of the region.
Vocational education and training gives young people skills and experience necessary for finding the right jobs. It also provides local industries with skilled graduates who can fill in vacancies and move the businesses forward. Expanding businesses and young people starting their own enterprises will need yet more skilled employees and the vocational education can answer that demand. It’s a win-win situation for the whole community.