Entries tagged with “Sunset Beach”.

 I have had the privilege of being briefed on the updated plans for the restaurant brands of the recently created Cowboys and Cooks hospitality and restaurant operations and consultancy group, to initially consist of 18 restaurants. 

imageWith an Israeli owner and Brazilian wife, an ex-Chef’s Warehouse chef, winelist and menu input sought from a bevy of Bloggers, and an amazing setting in Sunset Beach in Cape Town, the Bliss Boutique Hotel (more…)

Over the fifteen years of operating the Whale Cottage Portfolio, we have regularly offered hospitality and tourism students the opportunity to do their training at one or more of our Whale Cottages.   Our most recent experience was with students of the  Tourism and Business Institute of Southern Africa, and we wish to share our experience with this unprofessional Institute, as a warning.

In March we received an e-mail from Zakiyya Murtuza-Peerun, who signs her e-mails as Operations Director of the Tourism and Business Institute of Southern Africa, based in Mowbray in Cape Town.  I had never heard of this Institute.  She requested that some of her students be placed with us for training in “housekeeping/accommodation”, and we agreed to take two students for Whale Cottage Camps Bay, as well as a third for Whale Cottage Hermanus, in the optimistic hope that April would be a busy month, given the public holidays and long weekends.  I received a reply from Ms Murtuza-Peerun, stating that she would get back to me with the names of the students allocated to us.  I did not hear from her again.

Two aspects were different to our experience with other training institutions – we were able to interview potential students in the past, so that we could accept or reject the students prior to them starting with Whale Cottage.  To this end, we would receive CV’s of the student candidates. This did not happen. The internship period was odd, in that it started on 11 April, and was to end on 8 May, a very short four week period, not long enough at all for any significant training.  From May onwards the hospitality industry goes into winter mode, with barely any guests, and therefore there would be little practical training possible from this time onward – it was surprising that a Tourism training intsitute did not know this!

I was surprised to receive calls from two students on 10 April, the day before their start date, informing me of their arrival on the following day.  We had no CV’s, nor did we have any guidelines from the Institute as to what its training expectations were of us. The students started at Whale Cottage Camps Bay the next day, and arrived professionally dressed, student T looked smart in a waistcoat and tie, but blew this when he chewed gum at work.  We had a meeting with them, read through an overview of what the students were to learn in respect of Housekeeping, and the practical conditions of work were discussed.  Student T was requested to be moved to Hermanus, as there would not be enough work for two students in Camps Bay.  I called Ms Murtuza-Peerun, to express my dissatisfaction with the unprofessional start of the relationship with her Institute, and she said that she had been ill, and blamed her staff for not having informed us about the students’ arrival.  

Student R impressed immediately, and although she was only 17 years old, she initially appeared mature.  Student T chewed a new piece of gum, and had to be reprimanded for doing so again.  I stayed in e-mail contact with Ms Murtuza-Peerun, and documented all the problems that we experienced with the students.  Student T agreed to go to Hermanus, but delayed his departure by one day, as his parents did not have money to give him for his meals, so we took care of this for him.  On arrival in Hermanus, he expressed his dissatisfaction to his mother that he had been accommodated in a staff room, and that he was not accommodated in the private home of our manager, which had not been promised to him.  Student T became hard work and took valuable time of my managers in Camps Bay and in Hermanus, as he was unable to make a bed, not even understanding the concept of a fitted sheet.  He did not know how to wash dishes!  Both students were first years, having had about 10 weeks of academic training at the Institute, which had included a few days of practical training in bed-making under severe time constraints at the Institute’s “private 5 star guesthouse in Sunset Beach”, we were told by the students, but there was no evidence of this training having had any beneficial effect on the students, on Student T in particular.  

Four days after the start of the students we were called by a staff member of the Institute, saying that they were placing the students elsewhere, as the parents had complained to the Institute about the work that had to be done by the students.  We were not consulted, nor asked for input before the decision was made by the Institute.  Student R begged us to keep her on, but the Institute decided otherwise.  Being a guest house and not a hotel, our interns are expected to be proficient in all aspects of guest house operation.  I called Ms Murtuza-Peerun, and she sounded surprised about the call that we had received.  She was in Durban, and said that she had not been consulted by her colleagues about the decision.  She also told me that she would fire her Housekeeping lecturer, who already was on a final warning, for the poor bedmaking training of the students. Our managers spent valuable time in sorting out the students’ problems. Student T was called on numerous occasions while he was helping our Hermanus manager to prepare breakfast, and he had to be asked to switch off his cellphone. The Institute appeared to have no understanding of the time pressure on accommodation establishments between 8h00 – 11h00!  The five days that the students had spent at Whale Cottage were a complete waste of our time, and disrupted our operation.  It was our evaluation that the students were immature, that student T had no social skills and was a complete introvert, one barely being able to understand him when he spoke (yet he had good matric results, we were told!), and that he would never make it in the hospitality industry.  Both students had been moddle-coddled by their parents, and had never helped at home in making beds and working in the kitchen.  The Institute had not taught them about dealing with the public, or about working for a business.  Ms Murtuza-Peerun did indicate that both students’ mothers were the interfering and protective kind, Student R’s mother having called the Institute at the beginning of the academic year, for example, to enquire about the most suitable colour and type of paper she should buy to cover her daughter’s books!

Our experience with the Tourism and Business Institute of Southern Africa has made us decide to not take on any interns again, despite wanting to give back to the industry.  In general, we have found many students to not be serious about their studies and practical training (our best student ever completed her hospitality qualification, to move into teaching, as she could not accept the working hours of the hospitality industry!).  We blame the tourism training institutes for not screening students on the basis of their suitability for the demands of the hospitality and tourism industry, accepting any student whose parents are willing to pay the often exorbitant study fees.

I wrote to Ms Murtuza-Peerun to express my disappointment with her poor organisation of the student placements, and the unprofessional removal of the students by her Institute, and stated that I would warn our colleagues in the industry.  In checking out the Institute’s website, unfortunately only after the placements, I noted with interest that almost all the members of the Board of Governors of the Institute have a law qualification, and only one in tourism/hospitality.  The Institute has three directors, and its CEO is Rahman Murtuza, the father of the Operations Director!  Mr Murtuza’s previous background is stated as having been with Sun International.  It did not surprise me that Ms Murtuza-Peerun threatened “whatever action necessary” if I wrote about our experience with her Institute.   What was surprising was to learn that only seventeen first years had enrolled for the hotel management course, meaning that less than half would finish at the end of the course, hardly an important supply of future trained staff for an hospitality industry desperately requiring trained manpower!   It was also shocking to read on the Institute’s website that the students can in future be placed in jobs in Australia, Mauritius and Dubai – the Department of Tourism, Western Cape Department of Education, FEDHASA, Theta (now renamed CATHSSETA, the T and H standing for Tourism and Hospitality), and UCT’s Graduate School of Business all endorse the Institute, and would be aghast if they knew that their training efforts and association would be wasted on students ultimately leaving the country, when our own industry needs them so desperately!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage