People | 19 May 2017 | By Sun International

High School Courses for Hospitality and Tourism Enter the Digital Age

Sun International, together with the Department of Basic Education, recently launched South Africa's first-ever digital hospitality high school curriculum. The ground-breaking #eHospitality programme is intended to grow the sector, entice new students to enroll in hotel management high school courses and train them to compete on a global scale.

Government statistics highlight the importance of the hospitality industry to South Africa's economy, which created 32 186 new jobs and earned R250-billion during 2015. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, South Africa's tourism numbers could grow to 17.8 million by 2020, indicating the need for an appropriately skilled workforce.

Introducing South Africa's First Digital Hospitality High School Course

Despite forecasted industry growth, research shows that there has been a steady decline in schools offering hospitality studies. A lack of funding is cited as one of the main reasons, indicating a need for private sector involvement. Additional factors include the cost of equipment for high school hospitality courses and a lack of training opportunities for teachers.

In order to address dwindling numbers of hospitality students in South Africa, a public-private partnership between Sun International and the Department of Basic Education was formed. Together they spearheaded the #eHospitality programme, a unique digital hospitality high school course aimed at inspiring and training students from Grades 10 to 12 to join the hospitality and tourism industry.

Growing South Africa's Economy through High School Courses for Hospitality and Tourism

There are 300 schools across the country offering hospitality studies as a matric subject. Of these, 100 have been initially identified by the Department of Basic Education to start receiving training and equipment. In phase one, teachers from 100 schools will each receive a laptop, data projector and magnetic whiteboard to access the pre-loaded course content. The rollout of hardware, software and teacher training will continue until all the hospitality schools are adequately equipped.

Said Sun International CEO, Anthony Leeming: "With this collaboration, we will help attract enthusiastic young South Africans to our industry. Given the growing importance of tourism to economic growth, it's essential we start attracting new skills to our industry well before they reach tertiary level.

"Tourism is the one industry that attracts and absorbs skills right across the board; it's a growing industry and one where we must plan now, so that the country is well prepared to offer the very best products and services to compete effectively against other world-class, long-haul destinations in the near future."

Rolling out the Digital Hospitality Studies Curriculum

The implementation of the hospitality and tourism programme among high schools began in March this year, when teachers and provincial subject specialists from the eight provinces in which Sun International operates underwent comprehensive training. This included familiarising teachers with curriculum content, and ensuring they had the necessary IT skills.

Teachers are receiving training in the online learning management system that will guide them through the programme, Obami. Proudly South African, the Obami platform will host a variety of approved hospitality-related educational resources for all relevant teachers. Teachers will also have online access to provincial subject specialists who are trained in all aspects of the programme.

Rolled out over two weeks and two provinces, the launch celebrations were attended by a host of special guests, including Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and Miss South Africa 2017, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. The national launch of the hospitality and tourism programme for high schools took place at Tembisa High School in Gauteng, on 19 April. The Western Cape launch took place at Intsebenziswano Secondary School in Cape Town, one of the 20 schools in the province that GrandWest has personally pledged to sponsor. With an impressive 109 hospitality students at this school alone, it was the perfect place for the local launch of the initiative.

Minister Motshekga on the Importance of the Hospitality And Tourism Programme for High School Students

Commenting on the #eHospitality programme, the minister said, "It cannot be emphasised enough that the children of the 21stt century require ICT integrated learning and teaching in order to compete well in the global village. This conscious decision to incorporate ICTs into the learning space is not a leap of faith. In fact it is line with the African Union's vision for the next half a century, dubbed Agenda 2063."

The #eHospitality hospitality and tourism programme will provide ongoing support for both teachers and students, creating awareness at secondary school level about potential careers in the fast-growing hospitality industry.

The minister went on to say, "It is a no-brainer to say that by introducing this programme, the teaching and learning of hospitality studies will improve significantly. Through the effective use of the technology and by integrating the well-developed subject resource materials into teaching and learning, the goal and outcome of 21st century education for the 21st century hoteliers is indeed achievable."

Subsequently, the programme's content has been developed to provide effective, professional hospitality content to prepare students by giving them a solid grounding for further hospitality studies, or to enter the workplace with practical knowledge after matriculating.

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga addresses esteemed guests and learners at the launch of the Hospitality Studies Digital Curriculum at Tembisa High School in the East of Johannesburg.

Celebrating the Launch of the Hospitality and Tourism Programme with Miss South Africa and GrandWest in Cape Town

While the national launch was honoured to have the minister in attendance, the Cape Town launch of the high school hospitality course was privileged to have Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters join them. Met by a flurry of excited high school hospitality students, Demi-Leigh spoke about the impact her teachers had on her, especially during her matric year, not so long ago. Believing that teachers really can change the path of a student's life, she expressed her gratitude to her school, and her support of the new hospitality and tourism programme for high school students.

Also in attendance at the Cape Town launch was GrandWest's general manager, Mervyn Naidoo, and members of the Sun International SED (socio-economic development) team. Further to showing the property's commitment and support to the local community, GrandWest has gone a step further and also undertaken to upgrade Intsebenziswano Secondary School's consumer studies classroom with a R200 000 donation. This has gone towards the purchasing of a fridge, microwaves, stoves, crockery and general maintenance of the room – which included fixing cupboards, paintwork and the installation of a geyser.

Concluding the historic launch of this hospitality curriculum, Minister Motshekga expressed her happiness and described the partnership as an important milestone in the provision of quality education, and an anchor to improve quality education in our lifetime. She said that the project is one of the key strategic intentions of the National Development Plan, which is the creation of "partnerships for education reform and improved quality".

Miss South Africa and Mervyn Naidoo, GrandWest GM, with teachers from Intsebenziswano Secondary School, cutting the ribbon to the new hospitality studies classroom.