October 2013 | Sangeeta Menon

A hospitable future

The Indian Hotels’ hospitality training centres offer skills-based training to underprivileged youth, helping them find better jobs and ensuring a brighter future for many

With ‘enabling sustainable livelihoods’ as its corporate social responsibility theme, the Indian Hotels (IHCL) has provided skills training to India’s underprivileged youth ever since 2009, when it started its first hospitality training centre.

Set up in partnership with the nonprofit, Pratham, the Khaultabad centre provides basic training in hotel industry processes such as food production, housekeeping and food and beverage services to youth from the rural areas of Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. The 48th batch of students has just completed training from this centre. IHCL now runs 41 such skills building centres and has trained more than 9,000 youth in this manner. Armed with basic employability skills and backed by the Taj name, 97 percent of the students have found placement in different companies.

Importantly, IHCL’s skills-building programme focuses on many of the less developed regions of India, including the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, and many tribal belts. “We provide training to the local youth at our hotels in Srinagar, Chandigarh and Delhi,” says Vasant Ayyappan, director, corporate sustainability. “We have the highest number of candidates enrolling for the ‘hunar se rozgar’ (skill-based employment) programme from these places.”

The company’s Jiva Spa offers a three-month training course in spa services to candidates from marginalised sections, especially from the Northeast. A spa training centre has been set up at Dimapur in Nagaland and work is on to establish another one (in Guwahati, Assam). In April 2013, IHCL set up its first centre of excellence in hospitality, at the industrial training institute in Lonavala, Maharashtra, with funding support from the World Bank and the state government.

IHCL has partnered other Tata companies to set up hospitality skills training centres, at Kolabera near Jamshedpur with Tata Steel, and at Mithapur in Gujarat with Tata Chemicals. Plans are afoot for another training centre, this one in Behrampur, Odisha, with Tata Steel.

In the hub-and-spoke model envisaged by the Tata group, the Lonavala hub should be able to train 5,000 people annually over the next four-five years. Over the next two years, IHCL plans to set up more such hubs, in Mangalore (Karnataka), Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) and Guwahati (Assam) and other places.

“The group-wide skills-building initiative is exciting because the scope is so large,” says Mr Ayyappan. ‘If we have to make an impact in this country, it has to be through skills development.”

This article is a part of a special report on a skills-building initiative by the Tata group, published in the October 2013 issue of Tata Review
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