During a recent trip, as I was about to board my aircraft from Terminal 3 of the Delhi Airport, I was surprised when a young girl scanning my boarding pass gave me an extra warm smile. She greeted me with an enthusiastic ‘Good Morning’.
She must have been in her early twenties, but her confidence and poise impressed me. Before I moved on, she told me that she had done her vocational course at an academy, after her graduation.
The warmth of her greetings remained with me on the flight. On my subsequent return, I made inquiries and learnt that she hailed from a small town in western Uttar Pradesh.
She had come to Delhi to pursue her graduation but soon realised that a plain Bachelor’s degree was not of much use to her in the job market. That’s when she took the decision to pursue a professional course alongside her graduation, and the outcome was there in front of me.
This young girl, in my mind, typifies the future of tourism, hospitality, and the aviation sector. Keeping in mind their contribution towards the overall experience of a journey, it is important that these three sectors are viewed holistically, whether while framing policies or while providing training to personnel engaged.
Since these are service-driven sectors, quality training assumes great importance. And as far as training is concerned, like for everything else, the quality of output is dependent on the quality of input and of processing.
Both of these – quality of input, and quality of the training process – are amongst the largest challenges faced by the industry.
The quality of input is a challenge because jobs in the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors even at the entry level, require a degree of sophistication.
This includes good communication skills, emotional intelligence, decision making power, and above all, ability to work under pressure while continuing to smile.
Such skills are not formally taught in any school, college or training programme. So, while the focus of specialised training is on equipping potential and professionals with specific technical skills required for specific jobs, the possession of requisite soft skills are a matter of chance. People like the young girl I met possess them, or develop them instinctively.
The skill gap in the sector is accentuated by several other factors. In order to leverage the massive potential that travel and tourism sectors offer in a culturally rich and diverse country like ours, we need the right talent at every level.
It is important to cast our net wider than just the metropolitan cities to recruit such talent at the entry level. This means being able to bring quality training to smaller cities and towns.
The government supported programmes like the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) are trying to do that, but for these to be more effective, the industry needs to get involved. The industry engagement is specifically useful in ensuring that the training curriculum is designed to meet the practical needs at the workplace.
Availability of suitable trainers is another area that requires committed efforts from the industry. Ideally, trainers need some practical experience of working in the industry and finding such people is always a challenge, especially in smaller cities and towns.
That’s understandable since they have better opportunities available elsewhere. The industry can step in to fill this gap by a two-fold approach. In the short term, they can depute some experienced employees as temporary trainers, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
This would be a win-win, as students will benefit from the practical experience of such guest trainers, while the industry will ultimately get better-trained talent.
In the long term, the industry can contribute by helping build capacity of local trainers and by giving them exposure to an actual working environment through short-term familiarisation programmes.
Growth is awaiting us. We have the potential, demand, and demographics. All the pieces for a massive boom in the sector are present, yet we need to find innovative ways to ensure they fit together to make it happen.