In an emerging economy, sometimes the most valuable role a convention centre can play is one that, while essential to its own success, is also a generator of transferrable skills that will support development in many adjacent areas of the local economy. Such is the case with the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching, Sarawak, where an innovative and aggressive skills training program has not only raised the quality of centre services to international standards but is also creating a whole new generation of workers that will feed development of the overall hospitality industry in the region.
“We realized that staff training and development is crucial at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching in order to have to have skilled employees performing their tasks with confidence and consistency” says Centre CEO Eric Van Piggelen. “However, as an emerging destination, this area simply did not have a pool of appropriately trained individuals to meet this need. As a result, we became focused on internal and external training and development programs in the area of skills development and building talents – and over time, these skills will end up supporting the broader needs of a rapidly developing visitor and hospitality sector”.
The program was created in collaboration with the local Department of Skill Development, which has a responsibility to nurture and strengthen the capabilities of working adults in the region. With this agency providing an overall framework including examinations, BCCK was able to focus on identifying key skills and knowledge elements and providing both trainers and facilities for the actual program. Upon completion of that program, graduates are awarded a Certificate or Diploma that will be broadly recognized as a transferable credential.
A “You Can Lead” training session in October 2016.
The training covers a range of areas specific to various operational needs, but along with those specific methodology and knowledge components are also broader areas such as technical capabilities as well as social and human values. The programs cover areas as diverse as Operation Food and Beverage Service, Housekeeping Operations, Food Production and Preparation and Pastry Production, and all graduates to date have passed the examination, received their certificates and are employed with BCCK.
Says Van Piggelen “We understand the importance of training and upskilling in order for BCCK to compete on a global platform, and our efforts have paid off with our peers in the industry stating they could not believe the high service levels we maintain in BCCK. Sarawak as a state did not have the necessary skill levels specific to the business events industry, and while the BCCK wants to ensure all its personnel are highly trained to meet the highest industry’s expectations, when these people eventually move on to other jobs they will obviously take the skills with them. As a result we have become the unofficial training centre for Sarawak in the hospitality arena, which is a role we are proud to have”.
Quality management compliance training in January 2017.
This role clearly addresses a key objective for the original establishment of the centre which was in part in order to provide jobs for the local community. However, to do this, there was an obvious need to be able to attract meetings business to Sarawak in the first place. By creating the kind of training programs in place today, BCCK has been able to respond to both, with the resulting levels of skills ensuring overall performance that brings in Association business and ensures recognition as a facility that can function as a global player.
But the broader implications have not gone unrecognized. “Most of the local hotels are inclined to hire staff from BCCK because they recognise that we train our personnel well in areas that have direct application to their own needs. This is great from our perspective because it means we are demonstrably contributing to the bigger picture – in fact, BCCK is now one of the main catalysts to help uplift skill levels in the hospitality arena in Sarawak”.
Van Piggelen sees the program as ongoing and diversifying as client expectations rise and the industry continues to evolve. “In order to facilitate growth we have to ensure our focus is maintained on always wanting to do better. We need to understand the need that the world is forever changing and we need to be ready for that. Needless to say, someone is always training somewhere in BCCK”.
The program has not only been effective for BCCK and the region but a very satisfying one as well for all concerned. “The drive to maintain high levels of service is very important to us, and to hear from clients, guests and our peers in the business that we deliver exceptional quality service makes us immensely proud, says Van Piggelen. “Apart from growing the business aspect of the convention centre the positive feedback we get from others is awesome, because we are also growing our human capital. It is heartwarming to see how genuine our staff have adapted to the world stage”.
The Borneo Convention Centre Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia, was completed in 2009.
The bottom line: by creating a range of directly applicable local skills where none existed before, the BCCK is not only advancing its own business and the contributions that makes to the local and regional economies but creating a foundation for overall, long-term hospitality industry growth. At the same time, a growing reputation for delivering international-quality service is already attracting the kinds of events that will even further enhance and diversify local economic and professional development – an impact that will continue to grow in the future!
Rod Cameron, Executive Director, AIPC and the Joint Meetings Industry Council