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January 25, 2019


I remember my practicum days when I was a student at the state university. We had brand new hotels to take our on the job training (OJT) at because of the IMF meetings in the 70s. I was assigned to the Manila Hilton, which was a plum assignment for a student because each hotel only had two or three slots available for trainings. Hilton was top of the list along with the Intercontinental Hotel Manila and the Mandarin Oriental Manila. I got lucky.

At the Hilton, we were to render 450 hours of work throughout the hotel. I got exposed to the Chocolate Room, the fine dining restaurant, the butchery, and even if the stints were short they gave a young student an overview of the whole hotel operations. My favorite spot was the front office where I got to know Hotel language (like “OOO” for “out of order”) as well as the confidentiality rules for guests who did not want their names exposed or mentioned.

A few days ago I stayed at an executive room with executive lounge privileges at a five star hotel. Yes, it has been many decades after my practicum days but service is still a top concern for me. I entered the lounge and was surprised at the volume of people—families and a mix of foreigners and locals—who took breakfast.

I saw a trainee and I recalled my OJT days. Theirs is 500 hours in one outlet. That does not make a trainee see the hotel operations. He was clearing tables. In fact, I noticed that he was not being trained nor monitored. I felt sad for him, so I called him aside for a quick interview and asked him if he had a trainor. If he had a program. If he was learning on the job.

It’s unfortunate that student trainees are now being used just as extra hands and not as potential future managers. Is this cheap labor or just an accommodation to help a student gain “OJT” hours to fulfill a requirement of his school?

My OJT hours helped shape my love for the service industry. In fact, after graduation I wanted to be at the front office and worked as a Concierge. That’s how I also honed my skills in talking to almost anyone from any other country.

I also heard from a friend whose son was also trained as a Concierge and is now working as one in Dubai. The father beams with pride about his son’s career. It’s not just a job. It’s a career.

So, I ask our academe and the industry: Are we training managers or busboys and busgirls? Is this a CSR of your hotel or a way to save on labor costs?

The other side of the coin is the customer experience. At this executive lounge, the standards have to be improved. The janitor was noisy in sweeping crumbs of breakfast. You could hear the clacking of his dustpan. The trainees were piling up the plates to clear tables. There are obviously no trainers around.

Maybe all it takes is to get the trainers exposed in other lounges where service is quiet but efficient, where even trainees are not acting like trainees but like regular hotel staff.

It’s time to level up our service standards because that is our differentiator if we must be the service standard of the world.

On another note and in another industry, I also heard that our Agriculture students are being sent to Israel to work in farms and are given an allowance to work 8-12 hours a day. Again, is this OJT again or cheap labor? Imagine working in one farm for 11 months at a cheap allowance. Why is it just 11 months? By Israel law, anyone who is working for 12 months gets a permanent job. So, to avoid that and to use their labor at a cheap price, they get sent home after 11 months of “OJT” in the farms in Israel.



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