22 February 2013

Namibia: Training Brings Youth Into Mainstream Hospitality

A cleaner turned assistant manager has established a hospitality training centre that educates and trains the youth to improve service delivery in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Lukas Hifikepunye, an ex-cleaner and assistant hotel manager established the Lukas Hifikepunye Hospitality Training Centre in January this year. The centre, situated in Grysblok, Windhoek, offers unemployed youth an opportunity to be trained and become either receptionists or waiters and waitresses in the hospitality industry. The students are taught to improve service delivery and become productive citizens.

"The aim is to educate and empower young Namibians to get the necessary skills and knowledge in the hospitality industry and uplifting the standards of the disadvantaged community to gain knowledge. [We teach] how to communicate customer care and provide customer service," said Hifikepunye adding that the training centre will also contribute to the reduction of the unemployment rate in the country.

He pointed out that the tourism industry plays a major role in the country's economy and is ranked third in the creation of job opportunities in the market. Hence Hifikepunye thought it befitting to train the unemployed youth to become competent in carrying out their tasks and duties and provide excellent service. With more than 15 years of hospitality experience, Hifikepunye said he is more than willing to share his experience with the students.

Hifikepunye's road was not an easy ride. The proud owner of a wine import company, the entrepreneur started off as a cleaner at Mokuti Lodge then eventually a waiter at the same lodge, before moving to South Africa where he enrolled for a diploma in Hotel Management at Cape Tech. He then became an assistant manager at a hotel in Stellenbosch and later joined the Stellenbosch Tourism Board. "It was a difficult journey but my perseverance for improving my skills and gaining experience in this industry made me work extra harder," said Hifikepunye.

The new centre, which was recently inaugurated by First Lady, Penehupifo Pohamba, counts eleven students and one lecturer, Constantinus Likiyate, with a diploma in Travel and Tourism and Hospitality Management. The centre is accredited with the Namibian Qualifications Authority and offers courses in Receptionist and Waitressing.

According to Hifikepunye, the booklets needed by the learners are bought at the Namibia Training Authority and consists of 13 modules which students need to complete in the 3-month course.

Although the total cost per course is N$3500, which might be a hefty amount to some students, Hifikepunye said he will gladly assist those that prove they cannot afford the fee and have them pay back at a latter stage after completing their studies.

Requirements for undertaking studies at the centre is a Grade 10 certificate with 18 points and higher for the waitressing course and students with a Grade 12 certificate and 25 points can pursue the receptionist certificate. Students who did not complete Grade 10 but are 22 years or older are also eligible for the waitressing course. The ability to speak, read and write English is a prerequisite to enroll.

Upon completion of studies, students are awarded certificates which entitles them to pursue studies at the Polytechnic Hotel School. "We have signed contracts with local restaurants and lodges to offer internships for the students for a period of 3 months," said Hifikepunye.

According to Malesrina Hadula, a receptionist student, her decision to take up studies in the hospitality industry is to gain some experience and eventually land her a job. " I see many school drop outs just sitting at home and doing nothing, I don't want to be one of them, this course is a best alternative to just staying at home,"she said.

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