The Taj Hotel group invited the heads of several local NGOs to a meeting at the Taj Gateway in Bangalore yesterday to discuss the group's new "Corporate Social Responsibility" initiatives, which involve outreach and hospitality training programs for lower middle class workers. Taj is hoping that the NGOs will help them source trainees from their community networks.
Murali Krishnan, from Taj, said the plan is to take on workers as "raw hands" and "impart technical knowledge on them." The group is looking to train people to work as stewards in restaurants and coffee shops, as kitchen staff in their bakeries and general cookeries, and as housekeepers. Training workers for housekeeping, in particular, he said, will "demand a lot of attention, counseling, and mental preparation" because workers recruited from lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder will "need instruction on the cleaning standards of a 5 star hotel." Along with vocational training, Mr. Krishnan said his skill certification centers will also offer programs to sharpen English skills, build confidence, and "develop personality." In his vision, a combined skill certification program and apprenticeship would last 2 years, he said.
According to the Apprentices Act, trainees must be at least 16 years old to begin this type of training exercise. They also have to have completed 10th Standard. The Taj has so far set none of its own criteria for its training participants.
In March, Mr. Krishnan is hoping to start a 3-month training session for stewards, cooks, and housekeepers, for which he currently has zero trainees signed up. "We need your help with this," he told the NGOs. "We'll need mentorship and counseling from the NGO side."
While many of the NGO leaders who were present expressed interest in helping the hotel group source trainees who would later become hospitality employees, no concrete agreements were made. Many concerns came up about mental preparation and cultural mediation between workers' lower middle class backgrounds and "5 Star culture." One attendee, Brother Francis of St. Joseph's Community College, brought up the fact that even though the kids he works with might very well like a job in hospitality, they don't realize it because they've had very little exposure to the industry. He suggested the Taj group visit the communities they want to source labor from and host screenings of the Jennifer Lopez film "Maid in Manhattan." A spokeswoman for Taj said she hadn't seen the film, but it sounded like a "it could be perfect idea."