Last December, "Education" published an article entitled "Train now for the future", which was about Ban Muang Kud School in Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai province. At the school, principal Narong Apaijai has the vision of making it possible for his students to work in their local communities instead of leaving for career opportunities in cities.
Josephine Ive, third from right, teaches Ban Muang Kud School students table-setting techniques at the Rawee-Waree Resort and Spa in Chiang Mai. COURTESY OF JOSEPHINE IVE
Mr Narong integrates hospitality-services lessons and practices into the school's curriculum in an effort to prepare his students for local employment in the tourism businesses.
The article caught the attention of world-renowned hospitality educator Josephine Ive, founder of Magnums Butlers, an international hospitality training enterprise based in Australia.
Mrs Ive was once a lady butler to High Court judges in the Lord Chancellor's Department of the UK government. The first woman to be employed as a butler in the UK, she has conducted training classes at first-class hotels around the world, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here in Bangkok, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai Hotel in China, the Banyan Tree Bintan Island Resort in Indonesia, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia.
The Thyme Foundation
Exclusively for Ban Muang Kud School, Mrs Ive has initiated "The Thyme Foundation" (Thai Hospitality Youth Mentor Education Foundation), which provides support in hospitality education for students.
"Thailand is recognised the world over for its superb service attitude. The Thai people are very entrenched in their history in wanting to give to people. So, now, it is time for others to give something back to [the] Thai people," Mrs Ive said.
The foundation provides hospitality training to students aged between 13 and 17, conducted by "volunteachers" who are top international professional volunteers in the hospitality industry. The first training session was conducted by Mrs Ive in June at the Rawee-Waree Resort & Spa, a nearby supporter of the project.
"[It's wonderful] having the hotel there, giving the opportunity to put students into the environment, a real-life environment, rather than trying to do a mock-up in school," she said. "I would like them to feel confident and comfortable talking [in English] to [foreign] guests and approaching them. I would like them to aspire to have high standards without wanting to leave their own local area in order to be able to do that," she added.
Mrs Ive expects to return to deliver the second class in September. In the meantime, the students are encouraged to review the materials she left at the school and to practise the lessons learned earlier. Professionals at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok have expressed interest to become volunteachers, she said.
Josephine Ive, founder of The Thyme Foundation
Her first session was entitled "Basic Skills for Food and Beverage Services Part 1".
"I learned how to greet guests, five different ways to fold napkins, English conversation, table setting, and how to serve guests," said Sinjai Soda, 14, one of the 30 Mathayom 3 (Grade 9) students of Ban Muang Kud School who was in the class.
The session ran for three hours and was delivered in English, assisted by a Thai interpreter. "We will not be teaching in Thai, as we would like to expose them to English, but with interpretation into Thai so that the students can understand better. In this way, they get to hear and, occasionally, speak English, so they will feel more comfortable speaking the language," Mrs Ive said.
"We hope to cover food and beverage services, room service, housekeeping skills, some basic spa skills, front office and guest services, and concierge skills," Mrs Ive said, adding that the topics will be chosen by the volunteachers.
Each student-participant is awarded a certificate of attendance upon the completion of each session.
"This reinforces what we are doing. It increases the potential and efficiency of our students since we train them professionally to take them up to a higher level," said Mr Narong.
Right now, he plans to arrange for Mathayom 3 students to participate in the training. He also hopes to turn his school into a centre where Mathayom 6 (Grade 12) students in schools nearby can come to receive the same instructions.
Narin Kachai, manager of the Rawee-Waree Resort and Spa, said that the project is mutually beneficial to the resort, the school and the community. The resort will serve as a practice venue for students in future sessions.
The manager expects to offer part-time jobs to students aged over 18 who have completed several rounds of training by The Thyme Foundation and might later offer them full-time employment.
Because prospective student employees live in the area, "the resort does not have to worry about high employee turnovers", Mr Narin says.
"When tourists and guests visit, they like to have local people look after them because the local people really understand the area and are passionate about it," said Mrs Ive, adding that the goal of the foundation is not to teach people skills to enable them to get a job, but is to increase their self-confidence and develop their passions, which are the main ingredients for becoming successful professionals in the hospitality industry.
"I'm really inspired [by Mrs Ive]. I really would like to be as smart as she is," Sinjai said.
She said that after she has finished Mathayom 3, she will continue her studies and eventually return to provide hospitality services in her community.
Through the contributions of the foundation, it is anticipated that the school, the local businesses and all the other sectors concerned will benefit from the students at Ban Muang Kud School being able to remain in their community and helping to advance its attraction as a tourist destination.
For more information on The Thyme Foundation, visit http://thymefoundation.webs.com .