LETTERS: Homegrown solutions can fix hospitality sector skills gap

Why is it that in this specific industry, we tend to wait for the train to show up, with a big bright light speeding down the tracks, and then we start thinking of how we are going to build the train tracks?
A cook prepares a meal at a hotel in Kigali. / File
A cook prepares a meal at a hotel in Kigali. / File

Editor,

RE: “Shortage of skilled personnel, suppliers continue to hurt hospitality sector” (The New Times, October 11).

 

Why is it that in this specific industry, we tend to wait for the train to show up, with a big bright light speeding down the tracks, and then we start thinking of how we are going to build the train tracks?

 

The train is here, the hotels and the Kigali Convention Centre are here, looking like a million dollars and ready to bring in that extra revenue but we forgot something critical. We forgot that these buildings will need actual people to meet, greet, serve and bid adieu – leaving an impressive mark on our guests that they will most certainly come back and pay top dollar for another wonderful stay.

 

Our problem isn’t that we don’t have the people, our problem is that we have our people’s priorities upside down.

The hospitality industry needs more leaders and less managers. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds—the biggest misconception we have is that we think that unless someone has a university degree then he cannot be considered for certain jobs – even if they have the perfect attitude and work ethic despite their limited education. This specific issue makes us lose so many young and worthy candidates who simply need the right service education and consistent mentorship.

The shortage comes from lack of proper preparation before the building goes up, lack of proper recruitment processes that leaves it to a newcomer from as far as Poland to do the job of recruiting Rwandans, lack of proper career counseling that should have begun in high schools so that families get to know their child’s strength or career path, and lack of unified and collaborative support from our own institutions that have the mandate to make quick and decisive decisions on when, where and how to start implementing training – for instance, for the Kigali Convention Centre.

All these catastrophic shortcomings are so avoidable and it behooves us to do better and to do less talking and take more actionable steps if we are to become the hub that we want to be.

Our solutions lie in our ability to pinpoint our very own who are stars in their own capacities – we have dedicated doormen, dishwashers, maintenance teams, housekeepers, front desk agents, tour guides, cab drivers, concierge agents who simply lack leadership, appropriate motivation (than the occasional portrait picture of star of the month), and better pay.

This is where government comes in. How can we create better and favourable pay for the hospitality field?

Fellow Rwandans, this is purely a service training gap. The solutions are within ourselves. We don’t need an “expat” to come in and stay forever—leaving out the young Rwandans whom we are trying to encourage that it’s worth building up on skills and improve themselves. Our policies should enforce skill building with a contractual plan that eventually places the trainee who excels into the right position.

Nshuti

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