Egypt has experienced a significant increase in its adolescent and youth population in recent years. Survey data from 2018 reflects that nearly 33% of Egyptian youth aged 15-29 are not engaged in education, employment or vocational training. According to UNICEF, young women face a particular challenge accessing employment and receiving professional development opportunities as they work to overcome perceptions that certain jobs are only suitable for men. These challenges mean that the country has the opportunity to make the most of one of its greatest resources—young workers and entrepreneurs.
For Hilton Supply Management (HSM), the procurement arm of global hospitality giant Hilton, this presents an opportunity to make a difference.
Ingy Helal, HSM’s Regional Procurement Director for Egypt and North Africa, spent a one-month Hilton-sponsored sabbatical volunteering with Egypt’s Meshwary (My Journey) project in 2018. Established as a partnership between the country’s youth sports ministry and UNICEF, Meshwary focuses on teaching skills such as interpersonal communication, work readiness and financial literacy to disadvantaged young people.
After gaining first-hand insights into the challenges faced by Meshwary participants, Helal engaged HSM to help combat these issues and the company embarked on the creation of an internship and training project aimed at supporting Meshwary in addressing these challenges.
What is HSM?
As the innovation and logistics centre of Hilton, Hilton Supply Management (HSM) leverages billions in combined spending power to drive economies of scale and negotiate competitive contracts with suppliers, creating substantial savings for properties around the globe. HSM partners with more than 12,000 properties across 127 brands, working with over 1,500 suppliers to source 500,000 unique products and services.
Creating an internship programme
Helal envisioned an opportunity to work with Meshwary to provide education, access and hands-on skills training to young people interested in pursuing careers in hospitality. In tandem with HSM, Helal worked to create an internship programme with three key aims:
- Support diversity and encourage women to join the hospitality industry
- Present a new pool of workers to the labour market
- Develop and engage high-caliber candidates for job opportunties when available
Helal established the first of these internships, a month-long programme at the company’s Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort in Sharm El Sheikh, which was later expanded to three sites. The successful launch of these internships required collaboration with:
- Hotel management and human resources to ensure buy-in for programme participation
- Hotel HR departments to develop the internship programme structure
- Hilton Learning & Development teams to create a training curriculum, online resources and tools to support the interns in their skills development
Helal collaborated with all key stakeholders at partnering hotels, HSM and Hilton to compile programme materials, curate additional resources and learning tools—including success story videos featuring team members at the company’s Egyptian properties—and further assist programme participants by staying on-site and guiding them through each phase of their internship.
The programme is advertised via UNICEF, the Egyptian Youth and Sports Ministry and Meshwary’s dedicated website and social media channels. Applicants complete an initial application form and those shortlisted for the programme are invited to attend interview days hosted by the Ministry of Youth across a number of cities. Interview sessions include a welcome from Helal detailing programme particulars and providing an introduction to Hilton and HSM. Interns are selected based on a number of soft skills criteria, including their conversational ability, enthusiasm and maturity.
Participants are afforded the opportunity to experience a variety of roles across Hilton’s hotel operations. The programme progresses over three stages:
- Week one: General orientation, including classroom training sessions to help interns adapt to the new environment. For many participants, the programme is their first opportunity to travel outside of their hometowns and interact with people from different cultures.
- Week two: Meetings with department heads. Leaders from hotel teams including Food & Beverage, Front Office, Landscaping, Maintenance, Engineering, Security, Kitchen and Housekeeping meet with the participants to share their experiences working in hospitality and provide an overview of their roles and responsibilities.
- Weeks three and four: Based on their discussions with department heads, participants select their top area of interest and spend the remainder of the programme shadowing that team and gaining hands-on skills training and workplace experience.
At the end of the programme, many participants are offered permanent employment at Hilton based on their performance and engagement throughout the internship. In fact, 13 candidates were awarded jobs after the initial training initiative in 2018. HSM also conducts an open panel discussion with participants to gather feedback on potential programme improvements or enhancements.
Some participants who are not offered, or are unable to accept, a permanent position with Hilton continue to participate in the Meshwary programme, including participation in webinar sessions to encourage other youth to apply.
In collaboration with Hilton Learning & Development, Helal developed a curriculum to help the participants grow accustomed to the service expectations and day to day work within the hospitality industry. Training was delivered during orientation week in the form of classroom sessions, covering topics such as:
- Workplace protocols
- Making a positive first impression
- Goal setting: Make it happen
Expanding the programme
Following the success of the initial internship cohort, Hilton and HSM invested further resources to grow the programme, provided extra funding to the Meshwary project through UNICEF to create a formal training programme. HSM worked with Meshwary to secure a grant from the Hilton Effect Foundation, which funds projects around the world to support the communities Hilton serves, as well as funding disaster relief efforts.
The Hilton Effect Foundation grant was used to develop a formal curriculum and expand the programme to two additional hotels, with a focus on providing support to vulnerable adolescents in regions with a high risk of irregular migration. Ultimately, the grant’s impact extended beyond Hilton’s own operations as some of the funds were used through UNICEF to train 100 youth mentors within at-risk areas and provide ten youth centres with IT equipment.
Responding to Covid-19
The Covid-19 outbreak posed a threat to the programme’s future as on-site training was suspended until January 2022. However, HSM worked with UNICEF to digitize the training and resource guides, making sure they were available for participants to access online. The acceleration to a hybrid training model will ensure the programme’s continued impact, regardless of whether funding for in-person training remains in place for the long term.
By working with external partners through Meshwary and investing time and effort into youth training and work experience, HSM has been able to strengthen its talent pipeline in Egypt whilst helping to tackle challenges affecting the country’s young people.
Across the lifespan of the project, 47 young people trained at Hilton hotels, with 33 going on to become full-time members of staff—a 70% conversion rate. Hires included intern Mostafa Mousa, who dreamed of becoming a pastry chef and spent ten days learning to knead, bake and prepare breads before being recruited to join a hotel’s bakery department, and Donia Zakareya, who became the first female landscaping engineer at an Egyptian resort.
Zakareya said of her experience, “This was my dream opportunity. After all, who would agree to transport, accommodate and give a girl extensive training in landscape engineering, a male-dominant field, in an international hotel? We all had equal chances; our capabilities, determination and interest were the only criteria of our assignments.”
HSM’s participation has helped drive the success of the wider Meshwary project, which so far has delivered quality of life, employability and entrepreneurship skills training to more than 5,200 youth – made up of nearly two-thirds women.
Following the success of the initiative, an agreement was signed by Mohab Ghali, Country Managing Director, Egypt, Hilton, whereby Hilton will offer internships and on-job training opportunities to more than 750 young people across its hotels in Egypt over the coming five years, ultimately safeguarding the future of the program.
Said Ghali: “Not only will we offer guidance and support to the youth, allowing them to be more prepared for the job market, but we’ll also offer our valued team members a chance to share their knowledge and experience with passionate, budding hoteliers.”
Image: Fotokon / Shutterstock.com