This article was originally written and published by PUM Netherlands senior experts here.
The hospitality industry is thriving in Ethiopia but there’s a shortage of trained personnel. A few years ago, the tourist office, university and hotel association in the city of Mek’ele asked PUM for help. A number of missions later and the foundations have been laid for a comprehensive hospitality training programme.
‘Working in the hospitality sector is often seen as a last resort in Ethiopia if other jobs aren’t available,’ says PUM expert Johan Spape when explaining the situation. ‘There’s a huge demand for trained personnel and yet a high level of youth unemployment. Our assignment was to raise the quality of Ethiopian hospitality and set up coherent training so as to help youngsters find a job.’
‘There’s a huge demand for trained personnel and yet a high level of youth unemployment’
Several experts had already looked into the hospitality situation in Ethiopia before Johan first visited the country in 2016. A start had already been made on a hotel management programme but Johan saw that a more practical approach was needed. ‘The course was being taught at Bachelor level but this was sometimes too much for the students. Realising this, we looked into the level we had to offer the courses at. And we saw there was a particular need for practical information. How do you turn theory into reality? How do make information stick?’
Johan decided to ask Bram de Muijnck, his colleague at Zadkine Regional Training Centre in the Netherlands, to join him in Ethiopia. Johan: ‘Bram has practical experience and understands students.’ The two experts went together on two follow-up missions to Ethiopia, making contact with local hotels, helping train the teachers, develop the educational material and teach classes. And they took supplies with them from the Netherlands so that they could set up a fully equipped training kitchen and restaurant at the local Nicolas Robinson School.
‘How do you turn theory into reality? How do make information stick?’
What the guest wants
According to the experts the biggest challenge lies in changing the hospitality culture. Bram: ‘Most hospitality staff aren’t used to asking themselves what the guest would like. That really is because of a lack of knowledge. The only training course is in the capital city and so personnel in the rest of the country is simply not trained. At the same time, there are a lot of hotels being built in places like Mek’ele.’ In order to make the culture change
work, we need local schools and encouragement from the hospitality sector itself. Johan: ‘The courses need to be further developed and the youth need to be encouraged to learn the trade. It’s important that hotels reward staff that follow courses, for instance with secondary benefits, awards for employee of the month, bonuses and more training. In this way, they can motivate their staff to invest in their qualities.’
Medhanye Weldu is a former student of the Nicolas Robinson School and now chef at the Planet Hotel in Mek’ele. ‘I’ve always been passionate about cooking and learnt the trade through hard work and study. The PUM experts have now taught me how to train students myself. I do this in a number of smaller hotels in the area in my free time and on my own initiative. The hotel industry in Mek’ele has become a little more professional over the past few years, but the majority of hotels still have a long way to go. The owners have no idea how they can improve quality, purchasing is unreliable and the managers are not around enough to see what is actually happening. They don’t understand how important training and a good salary is. The students that have recently finished the programme at the Nicolas Robinson School already have a much better attitude and I try to set the right example myself, like I also saw Johan and Bram do. Whether it concerns serving or hygiene in the kitchen, it all comes down to being professional. However, hospitality is still not seen as a safe career choice in Ethiopia, so we still need to work on that too.’
Johan Spape (58) is a PUM expert in the field of hospitality. He works in secondary vocational education and has been involved with PUM since 2011. In addition to Ethiopia, he has been on missions to Tanzania, Ghana and Georgia.
Bram de Muijnck (55) has years of experience in training hospitality staff. He has been working for PUM since 2015 alongside his work as placement coordinator in secondary vocational education. He has been to Armenia, Kosovo and Ethiopia for PUM.
Kathryn Robinson, founder of the Nicolas Robinson School: ‘Our school was founded so as to provide education to disadvantaged children. We’ve long wanted to develop technical and vocational education like you get in my homeland Switzerland. By working closely with the business sector, in this case hotels, we wanted to be able to define the content of the courses. It was great being able to work with PUM on this as we shared the same vision. We could help PUM by providing knowledge of the Ethiopian labour market and all its challenges, and provide a location for the training centre. A lot of the personnel in hotels in Mek’ele come from Addis Ababa, but now local youth can also find work rather than staying unemployed. For instance, one student was recently offered a job just six days into their work placement in one of the best hotels in the city.’