Kenya’s hospitality industry is facing an acute shortage of trained chefs and barmen, a hoteliers meeting in Mombasa has been told.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) National Vice chairman Wasike Wasike said opportunities outside Kenya, which come with better remuneration, have lured Kenyan cookery professionals to work outside the country.
Speaking during a sensitisation meeting for potential members of the newly-formed Tourism Professionals Association (TPA) at the Best Western Hotel in Mombasa on Wednesday, Mr Wasike said there has also been a shortage in other specialties like pastry chefs and barmen.
“There are opportunities outside the country and in particular, the United Kingdom, USA, Gulf region and within the African continent, where the best of Kenya’s trained chefs have found work,” he said.
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Kilian Lugwe, the interim chairman of TPA, said the issue of inadequate chefs in the country is proving to be a big challenge.
Mr Lugwe, who is also the chief executive officer of the Jacaranda Group of hotels, said he had information that the Government had received so many work permit applications from foreigners wishing to be employed as pastry chefs.
“We have seen an example in Nairobi where there has been an increase in number of pattisiere shops and bakeries. Pastry chefs are not required in hotels alone and they are the ones behind these new joints and eateries in towns,” Lugwe said.
He said the demand for chefs and pastry chefs is high in the industry but training institutions that offer specialised training in cookery have not been able to meet the local demand.
“Kenya has been in the forefront in training professionals in the tourism industry but these newly trained personnel have found work outside the country instead,” he said.
State of affairs
Kenneth Ombongi, the chief principal of Africa’s premier hospitality training institution, Kenya Utalii College (KUC), said he is aware of the the state of affairs.
“We are gearing ourselves up for the challenge. Poor pay and paucity of professional growth locally in recent years have pushed cooks and chefs we train at Utalii to greener pastures in the Middle East, Europe and the rest of Africa,” Dr Ombongi said.
KUC has been training professionals in cookery but the numbers are still not enough despite introducing parrallel, part-time and evening courses, Ombongi said.
Close to 99 per cent of KUC graduates get absorbed into job markets even before graduating.
TPA Secretary and Kahc Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said there exists a serious shortage among member units.
“It does not, however, mean the quality on offer is bad, rather, a challenge posed by the sporadic business environment where professionals are forced to be out of employment due to such phenomenon as low season and, recently, the advisories,” Mr Ikwaye said.
Ikwaye said the country has enough highly trained manpower, only that other countries tend to poach the local talent, leaving Kenya with an inadequate human resource pool.
The situation is made worse, he said, by the fact that the country tends to prefer training more managers and less technical people due to the costs and time required to produce the desired qualities.
“We have challenges, just like in fields such as medicine but due to lack of professional voice, no matching investment is being done to promote training of tourism and hospitality practitioners,” said Ikwaye.
Ikwaye said it does not help to set up the planned infrastructure and fail to invest in manpower development.
“Soon we will export all good quality and turn to expatriates,” he said.