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‘The skilling mission is definitely well intended but outcomes of a mission are the best indicators of how impactful the vision has been’ : Dennie Mathews, AHLEI

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Dennie Mathews, chief managing officer – South & South East Asia, American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) believes that nothing less than a revolution is needed in the field of hospitality training in India if it is to match the skilled manpower needs of the sector. By Steena Joy

How has the hospitality education and training scenario evolved in India? Has the government’s Hunar Se Yojana helped in skill development in this sector?
Organic evolution is there in this space but what we need is a revolution and we are far from it! The skilling mission is definitely well intended but outcomes of a mission are the best indicators of how impactful the vision has been. While number of candidates opting for these programmes have gone up, though not at the initially planned pace, there is still a paucity of good trained personnel for the industry and this leads me to believe that there is a lot of catch up needed in the quality of the programme and also perhaps time to include some of level of psychometric assessment for entry even at these level of programmes to check on compatibility for this industry. Else, attrition rates would continue to be high and it could be a never ending cycle of having newer schemes with enough lure to join the programme but very less motivation to work in the industry.

What has been AHLEI’s contribution to the hospitality sector in the
AHLEI is now into its 66th year of being in the space of education and training. Internationally we have been actively present for the past three decades plus. AHLEI, since 2017 is managed by the National Restaurant Association, USA and ever since there is a increased pace in product revisions, enhancements and new programmes being introduced. Being an industry supported organisation, minimising the industry-academic practice gaps has been always at the fore front of our programme development and this has indeed kept us as leaders in this space. In India itself we have had several students and hospitality professionals who have undergone our programmes and have carved out exciting positions in the industry. We continue to focus and work on what is ahead of us, and that is what gives our programmes the edge over other like professional bodies.

With the creation of FSSAI, food safety and hygiene has assumed more importance than previously. Your comments.
As mentioned above NRA, USA is now the company which owns and manages AHLEI. Having said that, NRA is the most active promoter and advocate of food safety programmes in the United States with hundreds of thousands of food service and industry professionals being certified in Food Safety by NRA, USA. ServSafe has been the signature programme and now we have introduced a brand new series called ServSuccess. Both these series of programmes will be made available in India as well. And yes, these would definitely need local contextualisation before we do so. So watch this space!

How has the industry responded to your latest edition of the food safety handbook?
Our Food Safety handbook is a benchmarked one and is aimed at both the academic and industry professionals.

AHLEI has more than 31 RUIs in India. Any plans to add more institutes?
We are always in an expanding mode and yes we do see a lot of potential in joining hands with more academic institutions to offer high quality hospitality programmes.

Do you see a growing importance for certifications and upgradation of skills among Indian hospitality professionals?
Indian hospitality professionals are certainly more sensitive to professional certifications than ever before. Yes, it did take some time to get the industry educated on the importance and advantage of a continuing education programme and today we have many enquiring for certifications even in areas which are upcoming! We certainly believe that the very concept of continuing education and professional certification needs more emphasis here and the lasting benefits it entails to both the industry and the professional thereby. We have a very recent certification jointly developed with STR, USA called Certified Hospitality Industry Analytics and we are thrilled to see the demand and strong response to new certifications like these.

Is hospitality a trending career option for millennials?
Media has certainly given a fillip and glory to this industry – thanks to them. People are no longer shying away from joining these programmes and are more easily giving up on misconceptions they have had all along about a career in hospitality. With the industry growing and credible career paths being made known, this certainly is an area of study which is gaining traction with both students and parents! I believe the impression the industry will give with their good HR practices, will further enhance making hospitality a career of choice.


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