Feb. 20, 2003 – The St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association unveiled its new internship program for young people interested in exploring careers in the hospitality industry at a luncheon meeting Thursday at the Ritz-Carlton Resort.
Internships have been offering young people a taste of tourism-related careers for years, the Ritz-Carlton's general manager, Jaime Holmes, said but the association wants to ensure more opportunities for them to truly get involved.
"What we want to do is take an already great program and bring it to the next level by adding a little structure to it," said Holmes, who also heads the association's Education and Training Committee.
Human resource managers at properties including the Ritz-Carlton, Westin St. John Resort, Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort, Renaissance Grand Beach Resort and Caneel Bay Resort are involved in the committee. For Caneel Bay's Celine Joseph, investing in internship programs is a way to make sure there will be a capable new generation of trainees ready to take their place in the industry. "It's the main industry in the Virgin Islands, and we need to train our young people to take over from us," she said.
If the new program meets its goals, Holmes said, pre-screened interns will be matched to specific interests, be they food and beverage, accounting or engineering. Even those students who are not sold on a career in the hospitality sector will get general exposure that will make them better-informed travelers, he said.
For former V.I. Carnival Queen Canika-Chisa George, the decision to pursue a tourism career stemmed from pride in her islands. Three years after graduating from Charlotte Amalie High School, she is executive assistant for the Hotel and Tourism Association.
"The islands are my islands. I grew up here. I was born here," George said. She said she is committed "to do anything to help the islands out, the economy, and to tell the visitors that come on island that this is a good place to be, either to live or to spend a couple of days."
The committee presented the details of the new internship program to the people who provide most of their interns in the form of a booklet handed out at the luncheon. It illustrates how students applying for internships will be interviewed, evaluated and assigned; how their progress will be tracked once they are placed; and how their responsibilities will be spelled out to work site managers and referring agencies.
If a student placement doesn't work out, there are guidelines for ending the internship and explaining why it happened.
Along the way, Holmes said, the committee has built in opportunities to coach the interns on the details that make a difference, such as good grooming, good posture and not showing up for an interview with friends or family members.
Internships are available for high school and college students. Selected high school students will receive a stipend. College students have the option of a stipend or getting college credits for their work.
The program was well received by the luncheon guests, including members of the staffs of senators in a position to refer students to the internships. Referrals are also expected to come from high school guidance counselors and The West Indian Co., which has run its own successful internship program for several years.
Shortly after the presentation was over, the referral process began, as counselors and sponsors sat down with committee members to ask questions about how their students can qualify for the new program.
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