Entertainmentmanager at Sandals South Coast and class valedictorian Garett Bailey (right) receives his associate’s degree in event planning and management from managing director Adrian Whitehead.
MONTEGO BAY, St James – Seven entertainment managers and supervisors at Sandals and Beaches resorts in Jamaica are now the proud holders of associate degrees in event planning and management, thanks to a partnership between Sandals Corporate University and the HEART College of Hospitality Services.
The partnership, which was conceptualized by Group Director of the Entertainment Division, Joel Ryan, resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the HEART College of Hospitality Services and Sandals Resorts International, which saw the HEART Trust fund 50% of the cost of the program and Sandals is advancing the remaining balance of over $500,000 per participant through a team member deferred contribution initiative.
The idea, according to Ryan, was born out of a desire to supplement the team’s extensive practical experience and field knowledge with theoretical concepts.
“These managers and supervisors are all seasoned when it comes to the practical side of the discipline, but we felt that exposure to the more theoretical and academic approach, especially as our field is constantly changing, their would be very useful. We [also] felt that we needed to hone some very important skills as we continue to innovate in this industry and improve our customer experience,” he said.
This certification – the HEART TRUST’s NVQ-J Level 4 – Ryan added, would position managers and supervisors for regional rotations and build capacity across the entertainment division of the Sandals and Beaches resort chain.
“Based on our operations and the fact that we are a regional organization, it is inevitable that animation team members will rotate, sometimes to resorts in other countries. We saw this as an opportunity to simplify this process because with an associate degree, not only will their CVs be broadened, but they are also better positioned to benefit from Caricom’s unique market allocations and economy,” a- he explained.
During a virtual graduation ceremony held recently, Sandals Resorts International Chief Operating Officer Shawn DaCosta, while delivering the commencement address, commended the graduates for taking charge of their personal development and invested in themselves.
“Today’s achievement was not only made possible by our corporate university and HEART, it was made possible by your own decisions to invest in your development and seize the opportunities that come your way. “, did he declare.
“I commend you for rising to the challenge, rising to the opportunity, and working hard. Not only did you dream of earning this certification and investing in your development, but you believed you could do it,” he added, alluding to the ceremony’s “Dream. Believe. Achieve theme.”
DaCosta also spoke of the company’s long tradition of developing team members and the very important role of entertainment in resort operations and in the industry as a whole, saying, “Our company has always invested in our entertainment product, and we pride ourselves on showcasing the best of Jamaican culture and entertainment; realize that an investment in your development as members of the entertainment team is also an investment in the wider tourism and entertainment industry.
HEART Region 4 Regional Director, Shorna Newsome Myrie, speaking at the virtual ceremony, said, “HEART NSTA Trust is excited to work with Sandals Group to build your human capital.
“We believe that your human capital is your most important asset and if you are able to develop human capital, it makes life easier for them in terms of carrying out their responsibilities,” she said.
The 10-month program saw managers and supervisors immersed in courses such as risk management, conference planning, marketing, legal aspects and technologies in event planning, budgeting, protocol and Spanish.
The experience, according to Garett Bailey, valedictorian and head of entertainment at Sandals South Coast, was transformative and emboldened their practical knowledge.
“Our lessons covered many areas such as effective communication, assessments, protocol and environmental safety, to name a few. These are areas that will help cement us more in our line of work and have also given us the opportunity to be better versions of ourselves,” he said.
Salutatorian Suzanne Ingram, entertainment manager at Beaches Ocho Rios, also echoed her sentiments.
“I want you all to know what a great gift it is to be the recipients of a strong hands-on curriculum from an industry giant. If we use this skill and training correctly and wisely, we have a great advantage in the hospitality and tourism industry. Throughout the courses and studies, we have acquired immense knowledge and solid practical experience that have expanded our scope and skills beyond what any of us could have imagined”, a- she declared.
Dr. Phillip Brown, director of learning, training and service standards for Sandals, also congratulated the graduates for their investment, hard work and dedication.
“There are so many things that come to mind when I think of what you were able to do. As an organization we strive to develop our team members in all that we do and it is even more important when as individuals you take the time to do something for yourself because a certain number of things happen – it changes your perspective on where you were and where you are today. Congratulations on your achievement and we wish you continued success,” he told the graduates.
Recognized with their certificates at the virtual ceremony, Garett Bailey, Director of Entertainment, Sandals South Coast; Suzanne Ingram, Entertainment Manager, Beaches Ocho Rios; Jovane Cunningham, Entertainment Manager, Sandals Royal Caribbean; Shamar Bruce, choreographer at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort; Jolon Jones, entertainment supervisor, Sandals Montego Bay; Orville Whyte, entertainment supervisor, Beaches Ocho Rios; and Rushan Thompson, entertainment supervisor at Sandals Royal Plantation.
Since its inception, Sandals Corporate University has provided and facilitated several development opportunities for thousands of team members and has provided over US$1 million in scholarships for team members wishing to pursue and further their studies.
Suzanne Ingram, entertainment manager at Beaches Ocho Rios and salute to the promotion, is a picture of pride as she shows off her recently completed associate’s degree in event planning and management