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Baurs partners with Swiss Government to uplift hospitality education & bridge skills gap in Sri Lanka

Rolf Blaser, MD/CEO of Baurs (left) exchanging contract with Dr. D. Furgler, Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives

With the view of uplifting the hospitality education sector in Sri Lanka, the Swiss Hospitality & Management Academy (SHMA) of A. Baur & Co. Pvt Ltd. also known as Baurs, a leading conglomerate with diversified business interests, recently established a private and public sector partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The official signing was held on the 08th of December 2022, at the Embassy of Switzerland in Colombo. The contract exchange took place between Baurs MD and CEO Rolf Blaser and Dr. D. Furgler, Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The Skills for Sustainable Growth (SSG) initiative came about during the height of the pandemic and has seen tremendous participation from both Baurs and SDC. At a time when the hospitality and tourism industry came to a standstill with increasing talent migration, Rolf Blaser discovered the Switzerland-based RIESCO program and quickly felt fervent of it being a practical and immediate solution in addressing the widening skills gap. 

During end last year, officials from Baurs held a briefing with the Swiss Ambassador and introduced SHMA and the various solutions from an educational standpoint. With further discussions earlier this year, Baurs proposed a collaboration opportunity with SDC to localize and implement the RIESCO program in the country.

Bringing Switzerland’s distinctive reputation and quality standards in hospitality education which is one of the best in the world to Sri Lanka is a timely and ideal solution to the country’s tourism and hospitality sector, where hundreds of thousands of livelihoods depend upon, in the backdrop of various ongoing challenges, and eventually contribute immensely to the overall economy, ensuring that a quality pool of talented and employable professionals are created especially among the youth in the rural areas. This will with no doubt minimize the industry’s skills gap, take off the burden on the state, and go on to uplifting the country as a whole

Designed by Hotel & Gastro Formation, the RIESCO program is aimed at migrants entering Switzerland, who are heavily reliant on state welfare system. The program methodology and content ensure that one completes the program in the shortest possible time and acquires the necessary skills that are highly employable, translating them into active participants in the hospitality sector and economy.

SHMA plans to sustain this program through advanced digitalization platform, working with both the public and private sector. Coming under the SSG initiative, this will bring about immense benefits to the learners and country as a whole, in contrast to lengthy and conventional hospitality education programs in Sri Lanka.

By aligning and implementing a Swiss Vocational Skills Development (VSD) curriculum in hospitality management, SHMA will enhance local curriculums throughout the numerous learning centers island-wide. Through its train the trainer programs, SHMA will go onto further strengthen impactful teaching methodologies.

The SSG program aims to create 2,240 skilled young men and women within three years, with the first batch of student intake of 240 scheduled to take place during July 2023, followed by training 800 students in 2024 and 1,200 students in 2025, including increasing female representation to 40pct from the current industry levels exhibiting below 10pct. This will cover core hospitality operations and soft skills development including hospitality English, grooming and etiquette, and basic IT skills.

The districts will include Jaffna, Trincomalee, Ampara, Puttalam, Kurunegala, Kandy, Badulla, Nuwara Eliya, Monaragala, Rathnapura, Batticaloa, Anuradhapura, Hambantota among others, with a drive to also identify potential learning centres within the districts.

The certificate program runs for 9 months, with the first six months comprising of 70pct practical classroom learning and 30pct theoretical knowledge, and thereafter take up a 3-month internship with possible extension to 6 months. Baurs has already partnered with many hotels in facilitating these internships, with more joining onboard. The program will pursue a hybrid teaching model where a SHMA faculty member will be placed at each learning center for 6 months upon implementation, ensuring that it’s well absorbed and in line with the standards and frameworks of the learning curriculum.

The SSG program will play a key role in minimizing the skills gap and enhancing the quality of education through increased female participation, competent talent pool, quality standards in par with global trends, and making Sri Lanka among the best tourist destinations. The inclusion of females and returning workers is a main Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of this project, to increase equal employment opportunities and ensure correct and safe employment channels and migration paths.

The SSG hospitality certificate provides a steppingstone towards enrolling for Professional Diploma programs facilitated by SHMA and awarded by École hôtelière de Lausanne EHL, world’s number one hotel management school. SHMA provides world class education through its VET by EHL Professional Diploma programme, available in Culinary, Food & Beverage and Hotel Operations, with the next intake taking place in February and March 2023.

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