The continuation of the discussion with Prof. Ishmael Mensah is after the preamble; my thoughts on hospitality education and training.
I cannot talk about education and training in the hospitality and tourism industry without taking a close look at what is happening or not happening with professional craft skills in the sector; be it restaurant, accommodation, bar and front office, travel and tours, attraction sites, tourism information offices or even events and conferences. In countries where the industry is well structured and developed they might be making reference to lodging and accommodation, foods and drink service, culinary arts, event planning and management, transport and logistics service, travel and tourism, shopping and luxury service, cruise, spas, and wellness service etc.!
Who is providing the requisite foundation needed to build our human resource capacity, where our teeming career prospects will receive internationally (since we are in a global village now) recognized diplomas and possess the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values expected by employers in the industry? Can we point out school facilities which enhance working and learning environment, a solid curriculum which prepares graduates for work readiness? Our actions and inactions in the area of education and training have been betraying our understanding of this unique and sensitive industry we call tourism.
Tourism renders service for a fee.
Tourism is intangible; persons are being sold an experience, something that they cannot see, taste, feel, hear or smell before they purchase it.
Tourism is perishable in that the services cannot be stored for later sale or use.
Tourism is inseparable in that the producer (Ghana) and the consumer (Visitor/tourist) must come together in order for consumption of the tourism products to occur.
Production and consumption happen simultaneously. The provider of the tourism service/product and the client both affect the experience outcome.
Tourism is heterogeneous; there are so many different persons required to provide an expected level of quality service to make the overall experience what it should be. This variability of tourism services is so because it depends highly on who provides them, when, where and how they are provided.
For the above reasons we should be embarking on a National Awareness Campaign to sensitize Ghanaians and Training initiatives to ensure that industry standards are in place. As for the Ghanaian Hospitality concept, it was never consolidated!
One employee can be cheerful and professional and another can be unpleasant and slow. A tin of milk is called homogeneous because from tin to tin you get the same quality results. This is not so with human beings. We have different mindsets, personalities and behaviors. Unless a lot is done in education and training for quality control, we are playing games.
Prof. Mensah made reference to the nature of most of the jobs in the industry depicting the pyramid effect, where most of the jobs are at the lower levels. This is where we could capture the youth towards quality skills training in different areas of specialization. Delay in the improvement of the sector’s labor market will hamper the overall sector and directly affect our image as a nation!
So, ‘Technical Vocational Education and Training(TVET) has been embraced as constituting a vital segment of Ghana’s educational system and human resource development initiative for producing the requisite skilled manpower needs for Ghana’s overall development’ (Baah-Wiredu, 2008).
It is understood ‘that it is TVET that produces the critical mass of the requisite skilled, technical and professional manpower needed for national development’. In other words, without the skilled technical manpower produced by vocational and technical institutes, technical development would virtually grind to standstill. We know it but I am not certain we believe it.
The conversation with Prof. Mensah continues.
Are We Doing Enough for Vocational Training in Hospitality and Tourism Education?
HOST: Ghana now has a National TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Qualification Framework which starts from the lowest level (National Proficiency 1) where the entry level ranges from no formal education to some basic education less than that of BECE which covers traditional apprenticeship to the highest level. One is yet to confirm if it is level 7(Bachelor of Technology) or level 8, (Doctorate). On paper it sounds exciting. What are your views?
PROF. MENSAH: Well, this structure is just on paper it has not been implemented. For me, the greater challenge is the lack of a policy framework for training and the resources needed for effective training. What has become of the hospitality training institutes to be established as part of the World Bank $40million grant? What about HOTCATT? Did you see the draft training policy? What has become of it?
HOST: Beyond qualifications which have been introduced in the National TVET Qualification Framework, infrastructure and quality of trainers are huge factors to consider if we should make any significant impact in vocational and technical education, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sector. Considering where technology is driving education, what should we anticipate in the learning process of acquiring vocational and technical skills?
PROF. MENSAH: We have to invest in technology, not just ICT but facilities and equipment for training.
HOST: My little understanding of competency-based training (CBT), which would hopefully be implemented in the National TVET Qualification Framework system would not automatically enhance the output of students, will it?
PROF. MENSAH: No, that is just a training methodology. Honestly, the mode of training of the vocational institutions and even the polytechnics has traditionally been CBT, so one may say there is no new idea under the sun. There are weightier issues that have to be addressed. For instance, to what extent are we equipping students with soft skills and ICT skills which are more relevant in contemporary times (the fourth industrial revolution)?
HOST: The main aim of the establishment of Polytechnics in Ghana was to enhance technical and vocational education and to offer employable skills to students. To date, all our Polytechnics are now Technical Universities. Are we on course?
PROF. MENSAH: The conversion of polytechnics to technical universities was to further enhance the training of high-level technical personnel and also to provide more progression avenues for technical and vocational students from the second cycle institutions. However, by doing so, it appears the technical universities have shifted their focus. We could have changed the names of the polytechnics without fundamental changes to their mandate. We could have also maintained the polytechnics and addressed the systemic challenges regarding recognition and placement of their graduates, progression from HND to degree and disparities in the incomes of polytechnic and university teachers.
HOST: Thank you, once again for agreeing to come on this platform, Prof. Mensah.
I guess we should not expect to experience an evolution in education and training in the industry too soon. Nonetheless the show case of a sample of institutions begins from next week.