Sandals, Beaches team members earn associate degrees

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Seven entertainment managers and supervisors at Sandals and Beaches resorts in Jamaica are now the proud holders of associate degrees in events planning and management, thanks to a partnership between Sandals Corporate University and the HEART College of Hospitality Services.

The partnership, which was conceptualised by the Entertainment Division’s group manager, Joel Ryan, resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the HEART College of Hospitality Services and Sandals Resorts International, which saw the HEART Trust funding 50 per cent of the programme cost and Sandals advancing the remaining balance of over $500,000 per participant as part of a deferred team member contribution initiative.

The idea, according to Ryan, came out of a desire to supplement the team’s extensive practical experience and knowledge of the field with theoretical concepts.

“These managers and supervisors are all seasoned when it comes to the practical aspect of the discipline but we thought exposure to the more theoretical and academic approach, especially as our field is constantly evolving, would serve them well. We [also] felt we needed to hone in on some very important skills as we continue to innovate in this business and elevate the experience for our guests,” he said.

This certification — the HEART TRUST’s NVQ-J Level 4 — Ryan added, would position the managers and supervisors for regional rotations, and building-capacity throughout the entertainment division across the Sandals and Beaches chain of resorts.

“Based on our operations and the fact that we are a regional organisation, it is inevitable that entertainment team members will rotate, sometimes to resorts in other countries. We saw this as an opportunity to make this process simpler as with an associate degree, not only will their resumes be expanded, but they are also better positioned to benefit from Caricom’s Single Market and Economy allowances,” he argued.

At a recently held virtual graduation ceremony, Sandals Resorts International’s Chief Operations Officer Shawn DaCosta, in delivering the keynote address, commended the graduates for taking charge of their personal development and investing in themselves.

“Today’s accomplishment was not only made possible by our Corporate University and HEART, it was made possible by your own decisions to invest in your development and to seize the opportunities that were placed before you,” he said.

“I commend you for taking up the challenge, for rising to the occasion and for putting in the work. You not only dreamed of acquiring this certification and investing in your development, you believed you could do it,” he added, alluding to the ceremony’s ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve’ theme.

DaCosta also spoke of the company’s long-held tradition of team member development and the very important role of entertainment in resort operations and the industry on the whole, saying, “our company has always invested in our entertainment product, and we take pride in showcasing the best of Jamaican culture and entertainment; realise that an investment in your development as entertainment team members is an investment in the wider tourism and entertainment industry as well.”

Regional director of HEART Region 4, Shorna Newsome Myrie, speaking at the virtual ceremony, said, “HEART NSTA Trust is pleased to work with the Sandals Group in terms of building your human capital.

“We believe that your human capital is your most important asset and if you are able to develop the human capital, then it makes life much easier in terms of them executing their responsibilities,” she stated.

The 10-month programme saw the managers and supervisors immersed in courses such as risk management, conference planning, marketing, legal aspects and technologies in events planning, budgeting, protocol and Spanish.

The experience, according to Garett Bailey, valedictorian and entertainment manager at Sandals South Coast, was transformative and emboldened their practical knowledge.

“Our lessons covered many areas such as effective communication, evaluations, protocol and environmental safety, just to name a few. These are areas that will contribute to us becoming more cemented in our field of work and have also given us the opportunity to be better versions of ourselves,” he said.

Salutatorian Suzanne Ingram, entertainment manager at Beaches Ocho Rios, also echoed his sentiments.

“I want you all to know what a great gift it is to be beneficiaries of a sound programme of practical study being offered by an industry giant. If we utilise this skill and training properly and wisely, we stand at a great advantage in the hospitality and tourism sector. Throughout the courses and studies, we have gained immense knowledge and solid hands-on experience which has broadened our scope and skill set beyond what any of us could have imagined,” she said.

Dr Phillip Brown, Sandals’ director of learning, training and service sandards, also commended the graduates on their investment, hard work, and dedication.

“There are so many things that come to mind when I think of what you’ve been able to do. As an organisation we strive to develop our team members in everything we do and it is even more important when as individuals you take the time to do something for yourself because a number of things happen — it changes your perspective on where you were and where you are today. Congratulations on your achievement and we wish you continued success,” he told the graduants.

Awarded with their certificates in the virtual ceremony were Garett Bailey, entertainment manager, Sandals South Coast; Suzanne Ingram, entertainment manager, Beaches Ocho Rios ; Jovane Cunningham, entertainment manager, Sandals Royal Caribbean; Shamar Bruce, choreographer at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort; Jolon Jones, entertainment supervisor, Sandals Montego Bay; Orville Whyte, entertainment supervisor, Beaches Ocho Rios; and Rushan Thompson, entertainment supervisor at Sandals Royal Plantation.

Since its inception, the Sandals Corporate University has provided and facilitated several development opportunities for thousands of team members and has provided more than US$1 million in scholarships to team members desirous of continuing and furthering their education.

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