In the last five years the tourism in Nicaragua has risen by 20.5 per cent, according to figures provided by the Tourism Institute. Nevertheless this tourism growth has greater demands not only from tourists but also from the educational sector which is in charge of graduating professionals who can cope with this boom.
However many questions have risen: are these institutions ready to take on this challenge? Will these professionals find a job as soon as they graduate? What does the employer think about the quality of these professionals?
A research carried out by the Nicaraguan Foundation for the Socioeconomic Development (FUNIDES), about the economical conjuncture of the country, shows that annual students registration has risen by 5% in the last 10 years. However, not all of the students achieve their goals and for the ones who graduate is difficult to find a job, except for the ones who study Medicine or majors related to Medical Science.
Similarly, those who were polled on the quality of university education they received, said it was very poor; only the ones who have a degree in Economics or Medicine claim to have been given the appropriate education, but those from the Humanity and engineering faculties claim not to receive the appropriate education.
GAP BETWEEN INDUSTRY AND UNIVERSITIES
Dr. Ernesto Medina, Rector from American University (UAM) believes that the research carried out by FUNIDES shows that employers are dissatisfied with the quality level of professionals that universities are graduating.
“I think that this is explained by the fact that universities have increased in numbers fast but they have not inquired of companies and the general productive sector about what they expect from the new professionals”, claims the expert.
To Medina the tourist sector is the clearest example of the gap because of the highest number of graduates in tourism in the last years. Despite this, these professionals do not fulfill the requirements for their developments.
“Our universities promoted majors in tourism believing that from night to morning the companies would demand a great deal of managers, but no one would concern those days about the technical part, which is the area that makes industry work out. We realized that too late and we paid a high price for that”, he claims.
The president of the National University Board (CNU), Telémaco Talavera, agrees that in Nicaragua the education quality has to be improved but the issue of employment cannot be seen as a problem linked to education but to the economy of the country.
“As soon as the economy improves, the private and public sector will have greater capacity to hire qualified people”, said Talavera
IT IS DIFFICULT TO FIND STAFF
Frank Vado, director of Select school at Hotel HolidayInn believes that it is difficult to find the qualified staff to be in charge of the different positions in the hotel industry because they may have the knowledge but not the required experience.
“There are universities here that demand students have some hours of internship but I think that these hours are not enough. In other countries the academic pensum has a content of 6 theoretical months and 6 months of practice so everything they study is put into practice. This allows the student to go through all of the departments of the hotel industry, by doing janitorial work until reaching general management’’ explained Vado.
Another problem mentioned by Vado is that the personnel of small hotels as well as franchises do not take advantage of the trainings they are given.
“The ones who work with franchises train their personnel annually but I see that for some people a training is like a punishment, instead of seeing it like a benefit, a reward or an added value to their academic background. In my personal case, I worked in the hotel industry for 20 years in Costa Rica and I remember that you were sent to trainings only if you deserved it, the company would assess whether it was worthy to invest in you or not,” commented Vado
FEW CHEFS AND CHAMBERMAIDS
The director of Select school says that positions such as sous chef, receptionist, hosts, cooks which are related to technical skills are difficult to find since very few people are interested in those positions.
As well as Vado, the president of the Top Private Enterprise Board, José Adán Aguerri, thinks that it is important to promote technical courses which are what the private sector is lacking in. “We have to walk the extra mile because the required professionals and technicians are not being trained”.
To Aguerri it is urgent “to create an alliance with the universities and look for the enterprises demands and ask the government again: what is INATEC going to do? And how is it going to train professionals according to enterprises demand?” added the COSEP president.
ATTITUDE AND MORAL VALUES WANTED
According to Maria Luisa Diaz, Holiday Inn Express general manager (114 rooms), inaugurated on September 29th 2014, whose cost was 12.3 million dollars, says that during the first stage of personnel selection, they received a lot of curriculums but very few were pre-selected to hire for the 36 permanent positions the hotel would have available.
“The recruitment has been difficult because Agrisal Group wants to work with young local staffs who want to learn. Therefore we contribute to their trainings no matter whether it takes longer, thus at the end we will have associates that can fulfill with the standards of the group. We are interested not only in associates with professional studies but also attitude, moral values so that they create an excellent work atmosphere. We want the best because as a group we give the best. We are the hotel that pays best.”
To carry out the staff selection for Holiday Inn Express the interviewers went beyond a simple job interview. They used Team International programs which are based on educational and team work methodologies. “We think that a diploma represents very little about professionalism, that is why we look for attitude and desire of learning, for that reason the selection process may take about 22 days.”
The manager of this franchise assures that contrary to what she thought, the chambermaids were the most difficult to find.
According to Dr. Medina actions concerning this issue are getting started. He also highlighted the effort some companies have made in order to train qualified staff.
“I think that the job Pellas Group made in the south (Granada, Ometepe and San Juan del Sur), training technical staff in restaurants and hotels was important. Similarly, what is happening to the technical school which is financed by Luxemburg, looks good to me but it is still lacking in many other things,” says the expert.
Medina indicates that UAM also expects to contribute to the tourism, mainly on the Caribbean coast because it is a virgin region with a great potential due to its culture and natural resource richness. “We pretend to make alliances with a European university of first level in order to certify the participants in training programs”.
The UAM rector says that “whatever direction the tourism takes in Nicaragua, the technical training should be the base”.
In 2015 UAM will carry out forums in which they expect to sensitize those who make decisions in the country about the necessity of working on a new policy framework for the tourism.
“We think that the country has new challenges and the policies that have come up until now should be revised thinking of a new stage in which the tourism takes part. We should stop and ask experts who have seen the development of tourism in other countries in the region and learn from the good and bad they did. Consequently see who they invest with and to know their experiences and expectations. What they think the country should do to guarantee its investment, whether everything goes in the right way and encourage others to invest.” concluded Medina.
- Edition #1