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Building the engine of economic recovery

International Labour Organization teams up with Indonesia’s Manado State Polytechnic to prepare the next-generation workforce of the tourism industry for the future

Feature | Jakarta, Indonesia | 27 November 2020

Jakarta (ILO news) - A social worker. A hotelier. A world traveller exploring exotic food and culture. This is how Bryan Lontoh, a 22-year-old, third-year international tourism management student at Manado State Polytechnic in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi Province--sees himself after graduation.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has not only resulted in a decline in the number of international tourists in the province known internationally for its popular diving spots but also affected Bryan’s planned internship at a local hotel.

“Because of this COVID-19, we cannot do our internships,” said Bryan.

As an alternative to the internship programme, Manado State Polytechnic has since October 2020 offered a digital learning course on keeping customers safe to the internship programme to 100 tourism students and seven lecturers. The course, known as WorldHost 2020 and delivered by United Kingdom-based People 1st International, equips front-line professionals in customer-facing roles with the new skills required post COVID-19.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Skills for Prosperity Programme in Indonesia, funded by the United Kingdom government, has facilitated the provision of this course as part of its partnership with the polytechnic.

The students have learned how to keep customers--and themselves--safe from the coronavirus and any other viruses by, for example, maintaining good personal hygiene, keeping facilities clean, and communicating key information to customers. After attending the course, Bryan received a certificate that he said would be a useful qualification for his future career.

“This course taught us how to engage with customers. It’s good for us who want to be entrepreneurs as well”, said Bryan.

The digital course is among activities planned under the partnership between the ILO programme and Manado State Polytechnic. During the course of the next two and a half years, the programme will engage national and international organisations--including those from the UK--to assist the polytechnic with improving its skills development system on international tourism management.

At the launch of this initiative held in Manado city and virtually on Zoom on 17 November 2020, representatives of the polytechnic, the ILO, the British Embassy in Jakarta, the Tourism and Culture Office of North Sulawesi and other partners expressed optimism about the ability of the project to contribute to tourism development in the region, especially in the time of COVID-19.

“The programme starts at an opportune time. While the impact of COVID-19 is creating a lot of challenges, there are a lot of opportunities,” said Dan Montgomery-Hunt, Political Counsellor of the British Embassy in Jakarta.

With dozens of famous and well-preserved dive sites, North Sulawesi is popular among local and international tourists, particularly divers. Its Bunaken Island is one of the world’s top dive destinations.

“We try to bring attention during COVID 19 to build a new Bunakan. So we’ve started a, “discover the new Bunakan,” programme to bring attention to the greater part of the island,” Henry Kaitjily, head of the Tourism and Culture Office of North Sulawesi, said at the launch.

He emphasised that developing human resources and engaging local people are vital for maritime tourism development in the region. This is the focus of the ILO programme. Improving skills development in response to demand for those skills within the growing maritime industry is central to the initiative in Manado.

In addition to the partnership with Manado State Polytechnic, the programme works with three other polytechnics—Batam State Polytechnic (PoliBatam) in Riau Islands, Maritime State Polytechnic of Indonesia (PoliMarin) in Central Java and Shipbuilding Institute of Polytechnic Surabaya (PPNS) in East Java. It also engages government, employers’ organinsations and trade unions and other stakeholders.

“SfP-SEA programme aims to take targeted action to support skills for employment and decent jobs for young women and men including disadvantaged groups,” said Mary Kent, the project’s Chief Technical Advisor, at the launch event.

“As we look toward the tail of the pandemic’s curve, the human capital-- the skills that are created within this region--will become the engine of the economic recovery, the fuel of decent work and will set the course for future growth in the region,” added Ms Kent.

As a member of the new generation that will soon graduate and become the future workforce of Manado, Bryan said he will not stop learning.

“I still need to improve skills in communications and public speaking. The English language is very important for tourism students,” he said.