I was browsing the Solomon Times Online website and come across the discussions regarding the Tourism Course at SICHE. It is interesting to read the various contributors to the topic initially raised by Joyce of Solomon Host.

I am one of the privileged thirty two students taking the inaugural training in Tourism Studies at SICHE, currently managed under the School of Finance & Administration. Various issues were raised in the discussions but I shall only comment on some particulars.

Firstly the CNURA Government (especially the Minister of Culture & Tourism and his hardworking staff) and SICHE management and all stakeholders, must be applauded for fast tracking and establishing this important training at our major national learning institution. Tourism as an industry without doubt will be a major contributor to the national economic in the future requiring strong support from the political levels down to our rural village settings and populace.

From the last two months of classes, it had impressed upon me that the tourism industry in Solomon Islands is very small and in its infancy requiring much needed support from all the major actors such as the government, provincial governments and town councils, tourism promoters & operators, communities, training providers and the general public to prosper. Training is a major criterion to nurture this growing industry and to establish a wider pool of trained and knowledgeable personnel to take the industry to the next level.

Whilst criticism is good for any development, constructive criticism shall go a long way in the good management of training in tourism.

As most of you already know, the certificate in tourism studies at SICHE is a three semester course spread over eighteen months. The first semester comprises 5 units namely:
1. Introduction to Hospitality (house keeping) lectured by David Shenman an adviser with Correctional Services Solomon Islands having 24 years experience in the hospitality industry, one of his past experiences included serving on the hospitality management team of the Sydney Olympics. He is a part-time lecturer lecturing on voluntary basis. He appeared on the Solomon Star issue of Saturday 4th April 2009. He started lecturing us after a month of school started, and was invited by the school management to help out. He was known from his liaison with SICHE for provision of training for inmates.
2. Introduction to Tourism lectured by Rachel Sibisopere an employee of Ministry of Culture & Tourism, a graduate of a NZ University. A part time lecturer.
3. Tour Guiding lectured by Karen Foimua a private tour guiding operator and former marketing manager at SIVB, a graduate of USP and a part time lecturer.
4. Computing - a common SICHE unit
5. Business Communication - a common SICHE unit

In the second and final semester there are opportunities for persons with qualifications in tourism to contribute in transferring their knowledge and skills on to the students. I gather from queries that it is normal practice at SICHE for part-time lecturers to be handpicked by school management to fill immediate teaching vacancies for any course to be run, whereas permanent lecturer posts are always advertised.

The quality of presentation delivered by the tourism lecturers is very high and comparable to lectures in any regional tertiary institutions. I must say I admire and respect their professionalism and personalities.

For a number of the courses at SICHE, the courses were initially fully funded by overseas donors at the evolution but for the tourism course it is fully funded by SIG and training materials adopted from the Waikato University syllabus.

I encourage all current tourism providers to send their employees to SICHE and school leavers to take up the training, it is a real eye opener and re-enforce skills picked through experience from working in the industry. There are 3 from the industry working, and 29 straight from high school. All students are encouraged to interview tourism service providers and provide quotes in their essays/reports to support arguments. On the same note hospitality providers such as Solomon Hosts are encouraged to provide the required knowledge and advice to the current team of students to enhance their learning and contributing to well-developed graduates. There are various streams of workers in the industry ranging from management to the domestic cleaners requiring different training and standards. No one course such as the one at SICHE can provide for all the streams but specialized tailored training is a much such as is currently provided by Solomon Host.

Looking at the current pool of students at SICHE, most of us have no work experience and come mainly from the provincial schools. Some are of families owning family tourism establishments and ten are sponsored by the SIG. The others are all self sponsored.

We are entering into the final weeks of semester one and eventually the end of the course as time flies when you are enjoying. Like all courses at SICHE, an evaluation shall be done by the students to support assessors in developing and improving this course. At this time of writing I am of the opportunity that the course is generally prepared well and the lecturers are doing an awesome job.

I provide this information for a different perspective to the discussions.