MONTEGO BAY, St James — EXPRESSIONS of joy and appreciation for the $14.5-million worth of scholarships awarded by the Sandals Corporate University to the first batch of 124 recipients, flowed freely during a glitzy awards function held at Sandals Royal last week.
Khadia Josephs and Shoshana Sequira, both employed in the procurement department at Sandals Resort International (SRI), were elated over the opportunity provided by their employer to upgrade their educational qualification.
"I am excited. I am elated to be a recipient of the award. I was always desirous of pursuing the certification. This is a grand opportunity for me to actually complete the certification," remarked Josephs, who revealed that she will pursue her study by way of an online course.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Sequira: "I do feel great. I am pursuing professional certification in the area that I am working in. It will definitely help me to advance further as a professional, in a growing field. Supply chain management is brand new, but it is growing. It is one of the areas which is expanding globally".
Meanwhile, Pearnel Wint, assistant call centre manager at Unique Vacations — booking office for the Sandals chain — was equally estatic for the opportunity extended to him.
"I really appreciate our chairman and the CEO because this is something we have always wanted to do. This will enhance our further studies, so we can impact the company even in a greater way. So I am excited, I am looking forward to it. And I am happy to be one of the first recipients," said Wint, who will be pursuing a degree in business management online at Florida University.
Bellinda Nethersole, who is employed in the SRI public relations department in Kingston, also lauded the move by Sandals.
"I feel that in rewarding the employees it is showing that they (Sandals) care and I am just overwhelmed by the situation because how many companies in a recession are going to take the time out to do something like this for their employees? Most people are cutting staff and they (Sandals) are taking the time out to spend money to reinvest in their employees which I think in any environment is great," said Nethersole, who will pursue a masters degree in communications.
Meanwhile, noting that Sandals has always invested in the training of their employees, SRI Director of Administrator and Business Processes Wayne Cummings said the "Sandals Corporate University is crowning what we have done for 31 years".
"It is nothing new. It is developing a concept around a behaviour that we have expanded, we have always believed in. It was important for us to formalise all the things we were doing across our hotels," argued Cummings, who noted that he is a product of the training offered by the hotel chain, where he has been employed for the past 25 years.
"Many of us have had the opportunity through the years to travel to far away lands for exposure and education, but most of us have learnt here right on the job in the University of Sandals. So putting the title of Sandals University on our company was not new, it was in fact very easy."
Sandals Resorts International (SRI) recently launched its premier educational and training institution, Sandals Corporate University (SCU), which will offer staff certification up to a bachelor's degree in a number of areas in hospitality management. The Gordon 'Butch' Stewart-owned resort group will invest US$5 million over the next five years to strengthen training programmes it will offer to team members across the region through the institution.