With the promised National Hospitality Academy still some distance away, University of Guyana Economics graduate Sheldon Kellman is seeking to carve a niche of his own in the hospitality sector ahead of what he anticipates will be a significant increase in the demand for trained service providers in the sector once visitor arrival numbers begin to grow.
Currently in its sixth year of existence, Clean Clear International, the D’Urban Street, Werk-en-Rust establishment set up by Kellman with an initial investment of around $400,000 was originally envisaged as a routine janitorial service designed to provide across-the-board cleaning services. In a competitive environment, however, contracts were coming in at a crawl and Kellman decided to make a tactical shift in his business focus.
His own research had discerned a gap in the service provision regime in the hospitality sector. In both the public and private sectors far too little attention was being paid to service delivery standards amongst persons serving in the cleaning and sanitation sector.
Accordingly, Kellman sought out reputable partner in the Carnegie School of Home Economics to offer training packages for janitorial staff, housekeepers, hospital attendants and hosts for public functions. His aim was to seek to ensure that approaches to service delivery in the various sub-sectors moved closer to matching customer expectations.
Serious implementation of Kellman’s training programmes began last September and since then the programme has provided training for approximately 80 janitorial and housekeeping staff attached to the ministries of Education; Agriculture; Health; Tourism, Industry and Commence and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). In the private sector, service staff at Demerara Distillers Limited and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company have also benefited from Clean Care’s programmes. Kellman’s trainers have also been pressed into service by the British and Canadian High Commissions in Georgetown.
Kellman said he launched his training regime after tracking the concerns expressed by clients. He concluded that far too little attention was being paid to refining the skills of some of the various categories of service sector workers and that too little time was being spent creating a link between poor service standards and low levels of customer satisfaction. It was, he surmised, a matter of failing to provide service providers with sufficient knowledge of best practices in the sector even though such information could be secured and passed on with relative ease.
Kellman said it was ironic that service delivery in the hospitality sector was being taken far less seriously than it should even as the country continues to ‘talk up’ the potential of the tourism industry.
Training apart, Kellman said he believed service delivery standards in the hospitality sector were likely to increase when those employees on the lowest rung of the service provision ladder are better compensated and made to feel that they are critical cogs on the service provision wheel.
Kellman’s training is based on modules which he researched and modified to fit the local environment. His focus is on critical routines, correct techniques and the handling of housekeeping emergencies including responding to discovery of contamination. Training also covers protocols associated with table setting, meeting preparations and serving of various kinds of foods and beverages.
It is, Kellman said, an assignment that has it challenges. Much of the training is practical and instructions must be delivered to persons with varying levels of cognitive skills. Sometimes, he said, it is a matter of refining knowledge which many of them would have acquired in another setting.
Private individuals seeking to refine their home-making skills can also access Kellman’s training programmes.
Kellman said that social changes can influence the training curriculum. Modules are being crafted to pay more attention to service delivery in health care institutions, hosting receptions and providing hospitality services at diplomatic residences and high-level receptions. Training includes programmes
In networking skills.
Entities that have benefited from janitorial and basic service-type training provided by Clean Care pay $40,000 per participant.
Kellman said he believed that prospects for the services that Clean Care provides may have increased with the growth in the number of hotels, guest houses and various other hospitality institutions, particularly in urban Guyana. He continues to lobby clients in the sector, dispatching proposals and anticipating responses. Up until now, he has made no further significant breakthrough. He is aware that these are challenging times for the sector but feels, nonetheless, that low service standards could add further to their existing woes.
State agencies have provided more hopeful responses, indicating that more training contracts might be on offer later this year. Kellman is currently planning a demarche on those institutions to which he has sent proposals to engage the decision-makers in those entities.
Kellman said Clean Care International grew out of the devastation that attended the floods of 2005. He recounted his voluntary work delivering supplies to affected persons and of his decision to accept a post-flood cleanup contract at a deluged home in Atlantic Gardens. That, he said, might have been the start of Clean Care International. As it happens there has since been no groundswell of requests for cleaning services; but Kellman is prepared to be patient and to continue to diversify.