The learning curve

Danavio Neely got an education like he never expected this summer at Baha Mar. The secondary education biology and combined science with a minor in French student at the University of The Bahamas (UB) learnt that a college degree is like a broad spectrum in the sense that an individual can venture into so many different career paths.

“This concept was most astonishing to me because I never thought that a future science educator like myself could apply my skills to the hospitality industry,” said Neely who worked in Beach Sanctuary during Baha Mar’s third six-week paid summer internship.

Baha Mar recruited 19 – one shy of its original 20 hopefuls – to provide true real-world experience for college students to educate them on the fact that hospitality is an industry.

The interns were aligned with the department in which they are being educated. They also engaged in once-a-week human resource sessions.

Sydney Burrows, a marine biology student at Florida International University, said she learnt to always be open to new ideas and experiences, and of the importance of networking within a company, which she said can be advantageous.

“Additional I have also learned that you must be adaptable as every minute something new happens and you must be able to commit to new challenges,” said Burrows, who worked in Marine Biology Resort Services.

Glendira McKenzie, who is studying human resource management at UB, was attached to Learning and Development. She said the experience taught her to not be afraid and to be encouraged to take on new and challenging tasks.

“Being in the Learning and Development Department of Baha Mar has taught me about the power of communication and teamwork – both of which are important for any department’s success.”

Kylie Butler, a finance major with a minor in Spanish at UB, said the internship experience taught her to be open to new experiences.

“During the first day on the job I had absolutely no idea what to expect,” said Butler, who was attached to Procurement. “However, as the day progressed, I gained a deeper appreciation for this opportunity because I realized how beneficial this would be for my development within the field of finance.”

The summer internship was project-driven. Interns had the support of an advisor and a mentor who conducted bi-weekly check-ins.

Elsa Darling-Culmer, Baha Mar assistant director of recruitment, said going into the six-week program that they sought students who would be able to balance because they wouldn’t have weeks to work on a project and would be working in a real corporate environment in which sometimes they would have one or two days to complete a project. The students selected had to be able to work under those exacting conditions.

In addition to working on their projects, they also had networking events, executive brown bag lunches, meetings and professional development workshops every week.

Darling-Culmer described their experience as a full, holistic, real-world work environment.

The interns were a part of a cohort of 19 upper-level Bachelor’s degree (third or fourth year) or Master’s degree students with at least a 3.00 grade point average (GPA), who were given the opportunity to see if the hospitality industry could be for them.

Kirsty Cowper, Baha Mar vice president of human resources, had said filling the spaces for their summer internship was done on purpose because they wanted to make sure that the interns got a great experience.

“In the past, you get interns, you put them into filing…do things that you don’t have time to do, and that’s not what we want to have happen. We want to make sure that they have the experience of working, have the experience of whatever they’re looking to be educated in,” said Cowper.

“A lot of the children today think, ‘I don’t want to go into hospitality, let me go into law or let me go into finance,’ and so we wanted to introduce young, aspiring professionals and give them various, sometimes unexpected aspects of the hospitality industry. It’s not just the serving side of things.”

At the end of the six weeks, Cowper said the interns would walk away with experience in their field and that Baha Mar hoped they would return in the future.

The process of selecting participants is competitive. Every applicant is put through the same process. They are interviewed and their attitude is also taken into consideration along with their skills.

“When we’re hiring, one of the things we look for is that you have the best attitude and that you can fit into the culture that is Baha Mar,” she said. An applicant, she said, might have the skills, which they want and which is important, but she said the personality and attitude also have to come through. She said during the selection process, it’s just not one side or the other.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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