Ajman workplace project gives Emirati teenagers insight into tourism industry

Youngsters are learning how to act as tour guides, handle arriving guests at a hotel reception and appreciate how security systems work as part of a school's project to get Emiratis involved in the tourism sector.

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AJMAN // Be it Ajman’s coastline, its desert, or the towns and cities, Khalifa Al Bulooshi and Sultan Al Suwaidi know the emirate’s geography like the back of their hands.

The 19-year-old pair, both born and bred in Ajman, are looking forward to showing tourists around the emirate.

They are among the first batch of eight secondary school pupils to take part in a month-long training programme launched by the Ajman Tourist Development Department (ATDD), in cooperation with Ajman Palace Hotel, to encourage more Emiratis to chose tourism as a career.

The idea of working in the emirate’s growing tourism industry, either as a guide leading groups of international visitors or at the front desk of a hotel, is something that appealed to Sultan, particularly as he would be one of the first Emiratis to do so.

“I love to work in the tourism field where no Emiratis have worked,” said the grade 12 pupil from the Secondary Technical School in Ajman. “They can accept us in this job.”

As part of phase one of the programme, Sultan learnt how to make adverts for the hotel, welcome visitors and translate information clearly for Arabic speakers who don’t understand English.

Despite not traditionally being a industry considered by Emiratis, Khalifa said his family were very encouraging with his choice.

“My parents welcomed the idea because they are always looking for jobs that Emirati people have never worked in,” said Khalifa, who added that he has learnt how to interact with people from different cultures and how to improve his communication skills.

“The programme aims to encourage UAE nationals to work in the tourism sector to increase the percentage of Emirati employees in the various tourism facilities; a target which goes in line with Ajman Vision 2021 and ATDD’s strategic plan,” said Asmaa Al Beloushi, head of ATDD’s training section.

The second phase, due to begin in April, will include 20 female students who will work towards obtaining a tourist guide licence.

Dr Jaclyn Fowler, vice principal at Secondary Technical School, said the programme is open to all grade 12 pupils.

“It is for both boys and girls. They get a chance of working in a work environment for about four weeks and eight hours per day and feel how it is like to be in a job place,” she said.

“They take what they have learnt [in classes] and apply [them] for real. They come back for the rest of term inspired and understanding this what they have been preparing for.”

The first batch of eight pupils will take business-themed class to learn about hotel management and how to run a hotel as well as other aspects of the tourism industry.

“They might go to the airport, a hotel, other companies and we try to place them in places where their skills must be used. [Before that] we ask companies to guarantee to us if students will actually apply what they have learnt,” said Ms Fowler.

Moanna Hassan, a supervisor at the school, said that during the programme the youngsters will be sent to work in different departments at the Ajman Palace Hotel.

“We spread them to finance, marketing and logistics departments. We also put them in reception [to learn how to] deal with customers and in the security section, to learn about patrols, cameras and go around the building to check if it is safe,” he said.