Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project

InterContinental Hotels Group Dead Sea Training Academy graduates: Where are they now?

25 Oct 2017
Aziz Rabaya

“I couldn’t have dreamt of a better opportunity! To get paid to train at the hands of the best trainers and then be hired for a full-time job!” said 22-year-old Aziz Rabay’ah from Madaba. Aziz is a graduate of the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) Academy located at the Dead Sea and now works as an a la carte chef at the Holiday Inn Hotel Dead Sea.

The IHG Academy was officially opened in 2016 to address the dearth in skilled hospitality workers available in Jordan, and specifically for work at the Dead Sea hotels. The academy was set up by the Intercontinental Hotels Group with support from USAID BEST, which helped develop training capacities and materials and equip state-of-the-art learning laboratories for practical training. Other supporters are the Amman Chamber of Commerce, the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, Ghor Al-Mazra’a Club, and Ta’asheera for Humanitarian Development.

Despite the jobs being offered by the nearby Dead Sea hotels, unemployment rates among young men and women living in the Jordan Valley communities continue to be of the highest in Jordan. For others like Aziz Rabay’ah, working in the hotel industry was never considered an option. But that began to change last year.                       

Youth who apply for the training undergo an interview process and, if they are admitted to the academy, can choose to train in food and beverage services, food production or housekeeping.

There is no fee for the yearlong training course; instead, trainees receive a monthly stipend in addition to a transportation allowance and meals. Many of those who trained at the IHG Academy did not finish high school and were employed based on their performance at the academy. The first round of IHG Academy graduates are singing praises, grateful for the opportunities it has given them.

Aziz Rabay’ah explains, "The training included all details related to my work in the kitchen, from safety rules to cooking Arab and Western food, to registering orders, using a computer and learning English."

Aziz believes the practical portion of his training at the academy helped him realize he wanted to work in the kitchen and he now aspires to becoming an executive chef one day.

USAID BEST worked with the academy and local community organizations to spread awareness among the communities of the Jordan Valley about work in the hospitality industry and the training offered by the IHG Academy. These efforts were successful and from the onset the academy was operating at full capacity, training 50 youth. Around 65% were from the Ghor area, 20% from Madaba, and 15% from elsewhere in Jordan.

More than a year after the IHG Academy began its training program, 60% of trainees have been directly hired by the two IHG Dead Sea hotels.

According to Bassel Abu Hamda, Director of Human Resources of the InterContinental Hotels Group, “The results achieved so far by the academy are excellent for the hotels, which are constantly in need of qualified and efficient employees, and for the communities whose children are looking for jobs.”

The academy continues to spread awareness among nearby communities to encourage more youth to consider hospitality and to encourage young women as well.

Ahmed Al Salem, Human Resources Manager of IHG said, "We held workshops in Al-Mazra'a and South Shouneh to encourage families to give their children and daughters an opportunity to study and work in the hotel sector, which needs young and qualified people. A group of hotel employees and IHG Academy trainees spoke about their journey at the academy and answered questions.”

"I participated in the last two workshops to tell everyone that working in the hotel is like any other work, if not better," said Esraa al-Dabs, who works in the kitchen department at the Holiday Inn. “The hotel invests in training its employees and provides benefits. In the two and a half years since I started, I have been promoted twice and my salary has improved. I couldn’t have a better job!

Mr. Abu Hamda explains, “We have graduated trainees who feel so happy that what they say about their experience is driving many young people from the local communities to contact us asking when the next training program begins. This is a great success because the people of the local community are now beginning to see that working in the tourism sector is honorable work.” 

Ahmad Bleilat, who is 21 and from South Shouneh, completed the food and beverage production training and was hired by the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea Hotel. He said, “The academy really invested in developing our skills. I’m so happy with the experience I’ve gained, the job I have and the positive work environment. I have friends today younger than 17 asking me how they can join the academy. I definitely encourage them to train and try a career in the hospitality and tourism sector.”