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How we built our hospitality careers through upskilling

Tourism and Hospitality are some of the fastest-growing industries in Rwanda and the biggest employers for women and youth. Young people have shared how upskilling has been crucial in propelling their carries to the next level.

Over the past decades, the tourism and hospitality sector has emerged as an important driver of growth and employment for the Rwandan economy. In 2019, the sector directly employed over 164,000 people (4% of the labor force) across different education and skill levels.

The tourism and hospitality sector relies heavily on both skilled and unskilled labor. The skills demanded by employers vary by sub-sectors and potential employees must have a mix of technical and interpersonal skills to meet the clients’ needs.

The government of Rwanda and different organizations have been actively promoting the sector and creating employment opportunities for the youth. Initiatives like Hanga Ahazaza have been instrumental in upskilling young people and providing them with dignified and fulfilled employment.

Through acquiring new skills, young people can grow their careers

Launched in 2018, Hanga Ahazaza is a five-year initiative by the Mastercard Foundation with its different partners focused on increasing employment opportunities for young people while expanding the tourism and hospitality sector in Rwanda. Through the initiative, young people have received training in communications, customer service, ICT, and digital literacy skills.

Elie Musafiri, Vanessa Kanyabitembo, and Jamila Uwimana have seen their careers grow immensely because of the skills they have acquired through Cornell Hanga Ahazaza Initiative.

Elie Musafiri was a cook at Java House when he started the training program online. He specialized in Hospitality Management specifically in Finance. He says the training helped him grow not only his skills but also his career.

He said, “The training helped me to grow from a cook to a Line Chef and now I am the Brand Chef.”

Elie Musafiri was promoted from Cook to Line Chef

Jamila Uwimana, who is currently the General Manager at Heritage Safaris Limited at only 26 years old, notes that she has always been passionate about hospitality and also says that the training has been instrumental in propelling her career.

She said, “Training gives you a professional perspective of how you can use your talent. You can use your personality for service recovery. To give people a great experience when they visit the country or when they use our services.”

Uwimana Jamila was appointed as the General Manager at only 26 years-old

Vanessa Kanyabutembo was working at the front office at White Stones Apartments when she started the training in 2020, after just a year she was promoted to the Head of the Front Office.

She says she put into practice what she had learned in theory and landed herself a promotion.

She says, “I learned about food and beverage service management. I learned about sales and marketing. I learned about accounting and also the customer care. Those skills are really important when you’re working in the hospitality industry.”

“After one year, I was nominated to be the Best Front Office Staff of the year because I was applying the knowledge I was earning from eCornell.”

Vanessa Kanyabutembo is not the Head of Front Office Staff

The course not only helped these young people gain new skills, they also became more aware of the great potential that lies in them.

Uwimana says, “Whatever course I was doing in the Hanga Hazaza program, helped me become aware of my skills and talent and actually use them to our advantage as a tour company.”

Elie Musafiri sees himself becoming an Executive Chef of five-star hotels or restaurants. Vanessa Kanyabutembo sees herself being the Managing Director of different Hospitality companies in the future. Uwimana Jamila sees herself owning her own company one day.

Uwimana encourages young women to “believe in your dream and believe in yourself. And trust me, the opportunity will find you. And if you do what you love, you eventually will grow.”

Straight out of Twitter