Bahamians seeking to train for a career in hospitality, and hotels seeking ways to increase their access to the high end market and to improve profits can look to a new, internationally recognized butler and hospitality training facility.
The school, Corterie of Caribbean Butlers(COCB), is a franchise holder of the Robert Watson School of Professional English Butlers, one of the butler training organizations where school founder Micklyn Lightbourne received his professional training. Now an associate member of the Guild, Lightbourne, along with his wife Stephanie believe the timing is right for not only prospective students, but also for hotels seeking more high-end guests and better returns.
"Butler services is actually the game changer for the hotel industry,"Micklyn's wife Stephanie Lightbourne toldGuardian Businessyesterday."With butler services, hotels can take their facility from being a regular hotel to resort status and that will affect their bottom lines tremendously."
Lightbourne, who will focus on the administrative and operational aspects of the school, said the Sandals Exuma resort was a good example of this. She cited the resort's move from an initial 35 percent butler service to full butler service at the property. The resort could fill all of its rooms with higher-end guests who would expect that level of service, and price their product accordingly, she reasoned.
Lightbourne also anticipates that at least one of the properties to be added as a part of the Baha Mar expansion will have an extensive butler service offer for its guests, increasing the demand for trained Bahamian butlers.
Based on her and her husband's experience in the industry, she said they observed that many high school graduates turn to the hospitality industry for employment fresh out of high school. Because they generally have no skills or preparation for the industry they are often put into employment banks and used to fill temporary positions, she said.
"With our programme, they can go in bringing something to the table,"Lightbourne said.
The Lightbournes believe that their school will fill a very important role in training people for the industry, tellingGuardian Businessthat even the College of The Bahamas'Cultural Arts and Hospitality Management Institute was'simply not enough'to meet all the training needs for the industry.
The fact that the training would be done by someone who has a genuine and intimate understanding of Bahamian culture will also benefit students considerably, according to Lightbourne.
"[Foreign trainers]can't get the best out of us if they don't truly understand who we are,"she said, adding that when trainers failed to get the best out of students, the entire industry suffered as a result. With her husband Micklyn doing the training, she believes students have the best chance to maximize their potential.
"Micklyn really has a heart for service; and he has an intolerance for a lack of professionalism,"she said.
Her husband Micklyn has worked at many of the country's premier resorts including the One and Only Ocean Club and the Sandals Resort, gaining over 20 years experience in the industry. This year he walked away from the Cacique awards with the"Employee of the Year"award. In addition to his training with the Robert Watson School, he also completed certification with the Ivor Spencer International School for Butlers.
The school is now an official allied member of the Bahamas Hotel Association and its training programmes are recognized by the Ministry of Education, Lightbourne said. Courses will run for 12 weeks and programmes will be offered in butler services, guest services, food and beverage and housekeeping. Each programme contains a two-and-a-half week Bahama Host component. They also include food handling certification, essential for anyone who will be serving food. The Ministry of Health has approved that aspect of the training, according to Lightbourne.
COCB is also including aspects of training often reserved only for managers. It includes CPR and First Aid training, and a special emergency preparedness component so staff can be prepared to help in case of events like hurricane and fire. Classes will run Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the school in the Shirley Street Plaza. The certification programmes cost$2,000. Spaces are currently available for the first round of training and additional information is available at www.corterieofbutlers.com.
On-site training for butlers will also be available through COCB. Hotels interested in creating a butler services department can contract the school for the set-up service which includes creation of a butler's pantry, identification of suitable staff if existing employees are to be used and 8-12 weeks of on-site training.
The Nassau Guardian
April 11, 2011