An internship training programme has been developed as a joint venture in alliance with the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development St Vincent’s School for the Deaf, and the School of Culinary Art.

“I was shocked to discover that the rate of unemployment amongst people with hearing disabilities is estimated to be about 75 percent. And, since there are probably approximately two million South Africans who are hearing disabled, that equates to large numbers of citizens who will never have the opportunity to support themselves,” explains Gaylard.

After initial discussions with Maria Ramaahlo of PsyCaD and Stephen Billingham, the owner of the HTA School of Culinary Art and President of the South African Chefs Association, about the viability of such a training programme in an industry heavily reliant on communication skills, she developed a pilot project, with the hopes of revolutionising hiring practices in the industry. If the pilot succeeds, Nancy plans to expand it to other hotels.We’re interested in building careers in many facets of hospitality work

The first deaf interns started at the Protea Hotel Balalaika in January 2015

“The difference with this programme is that it isn’t just about giving these students a small job in the industry. We’re interested in building careers in many facets of hospitality work,” Nancy explains.

“The trainees are selected from St Vincent’s and are trained at HTA in professional cookery. They are then placed on an initial 12-month rotation, spending a month in various food departments of the hotel. After that, they select their chosen field and we offer them three years of work experience in that line of work.”

Following the course provided by HTA, the student receives a certificate in cookery, and this gives them a City and Guilds International certificate at NQF Level 3.

The certificate opens up the opportunity to register for other HTA courses

In addition to the cookery training, the University of Johannesburg agreed to admit Poonam Kanjee to study hotel management. Her studies involve attending lectures with an interpreter using South African Sign Language (SASL), and the university funds the interpreter and data capturer required for her to participate in lectures. This is obviously a costly exercise but, having seen the academic success that Kanjee has been achieving, the University is committed to continue its programme of deaf student support.The University is committed to continue its programme of deaf student support.

Since mentors and advisors throughout the hotel must be able to communicate with their hearing-challenged trainees, the Protea Hotel Balalaika has to date sent 45 staff members on a 10-week training course in SASL. Various staff who’ve attended lessons have passed level one of the sign language tutelage, and eight have already passed level two.

Promising future

“The integration of deaf and hearing impaired trainees into the Protea Hotel Balalaika initially seemed like it would be an impossible hurdle, but the early signs are very promising,” Nancy says. “We’re committed to the process of integration at multiple levels into our hotel’s departments as the trainees gain the required skills. In this way, we hope that their training will create a proper, viable career path for deaf professionals.”

This Article was published  by All 4 Women on the 12 November 2015

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