WHY UGANDANS ARE PERPETUALLY LOCKED OUT OF THE HOTEL LABOUR MARKET
According to statistics from the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, the country boasts of more than 200 well-established hotels and hospitality utilities, with majority being in Kampala, Entebbe and others scattered across the country. This tremendous growth implies that the industry would offer job opportunities to soak up the big number of jobless people, but surprisingly, this is not the case. According to officials from Uganda Hotel Owners Association, Ugandan graduates of hotel management end up doing low cadre jobs and are denied top positions due to various reasons. “The industry is surely growing although Ugandans are hardly benefiting from this growth,” says Mr Stephen Mugole, the general secretary Uganda Hotel Allied Workers’ Union (UHAWU). He adds on that “90% of Ugandans employed in the hotel industry take up low-end jobs that are least paying such as desk attendants, waiters, waitresses, room attendants and sales people, while the top positions such as chefs, food and beverage managers and general management positions are occupied by non-nationals, particularly Kenyans”
Uganda’s labour market continues to shrink as a result of a slow economy and the level of joblessness estimated at about 80% of the labour force. Those seeking jobs in the industry have to overcome a serious perception problem that Ugandans are generally lazy, lack initiative, customer care skills, which are vital requirements in the industry. Experts say that the trend of foreigners continuously taking up jobs in Uganda’s hotels is a result of three major factors; Uganda’s poor training capacity, weak non-operational labour laws and perception that Ugandans are less productive compared to their counterparts in the region, particularly Kenya. “This is a totally wrong perception as Ugandans are equally hard working, good managers, and are very hospitable by nature,” Mr Mugole explains, adding that such skills are a major requirement needed in the hotel business.
In addition, others think that the training of Uganda’s hotel students is still lacking and contributes heavily to reliance on foreign experts. Mr Owere says: “The hotel industry in Uganda is lacking a competent training school.” Whereas other private institutions like Jimmy Ssekasi Institute of Catering, YMCA, YWCA, Kyambogo University and Makerere University Business School have come to aid the only national hotel and tourism training school – Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja in training hotel students, the skills gap still exists. “It is about quality and what one can offer, not tribe, colour or nationality”. He, however, argues that Ugandans need to equip themselves with skills so as to attain the jobs in the hotel industry on merit.
The Good news is that refresher courses and on-job training is a worthwhile gift hotel managers and owners can offer to their employees as remedy to the skills gap. Mr Mugole says this is a far cheaper option than importing labour which has extreme demands and yet hardly benefits the country. This can be done by the Uganda Hospitality Institute as it intends to bridge the skill gap between college degree and work by offering study at work programs.
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