Talent Tank

What is Kerten Hospitality’s Talent Tank Internship Programme?

Responses by Jorge Fernandez Ortega, Corporate Director of Operations, Kerten Hospitality

Jorge Fernandez

How important are these training programmes in today's world? Why do hotels need these programmes?

From the bottom up and top down, training programmes are vital for the success base of the business and the industry at large – it’s an opportunity for us to give back, support and inspire the next generation of hoteliers.

With new jobs being created in hospitality at an amazing rate, we are always looking to find the best and the brightest talent and engage them from the start of their careers. Exposing them to our knowhow and providing hands-on experience, so they can hopefully continue to work with us in the future, is essential to our long-term success.

As an industry, we have historically been very good at recognising this need and embracing the old adage of ‘sharing is caring’

There are many great programmes out there that provide a valuable platform for individual hotel companies, indeed a lot of us at Kerten Hospitality have benefitted from such opportunities. However, as a company that specialises in mixed-use and boutique brands, our needs and ways of working are very different to a more traditional hotel operation.

We require an innovative mindset, operational agility and a pool of talent that quickly adapts and embraces new challenges and turns them into opportunities, all of which makes the Talent Tank Internship Programme increasingly important for us as grow our global footprint.

There are several hospitality training programmes in the Middle East, what is the USP of your programme?

There are several aspects to the Talent Tank Internship Programme that combine to create a unique training opportunity. For example:

  • Opportunity & Purpose: We have an ambitious growth plan that we are already starting to realise. We have a solid base and organisational structure to cope with our rapid growth and are counting on building long-term career development with talented Gen Z-ers who are like-minded, driven and share the same ethos to drive the innovation forwards.
  • Trust & Collaboration: The Talent Tank has been designed with this specifically in mind. For example, it is unusual for a hospitality company to provide young, inexperienced talent with the exposure to strategic information and projects the way we do.

    We want them to get real value from the experience and that means providing them a direct reporting line to key senior roles within our organisation with 24/7 open door policy and senior mentorship.

  • Hands-On Experience: It helps that, as a company, we have what would be considered a flat business structure, enabling real corporate exposure, complemented by hands-on operational experience. We work together in a focus or working group format which makes it easier for Talent Tank participants to get involved at every level of a project and empowers them to become game changers in hospitality.
  • Mentorship: The interns join a series of “lunch and learns”, workshops and team events, with the unique add-on feature being 1-2-1 sessions with a career coach to help direct their professional goals, enhance their skills and support general career development. Interns also work closely with Corporate Executives who give them real-life advice on career choices and best fit scenarios.

What's on offer post the training? Does it help trainees get a job?

Our goal is to build a pool of young talent who will be the industry’s future leaders. That is why sharing knowledge through mentorship, one-on-one interaction and providing a future job opportunity for them is the guaranteed success of the entire journey from start to finish.

After six months working with us, they have a strong foundation and critical viewpoint that is an important component of almost every business today, making them an asset for any company.

After six months working with us, they have a strong foundation and critical viewpoint that is an important component of almost every business today, making them an asset for any company. The close connections they have made during their time with us is a great value when they wish to continue their careers with us, the door to opportunity is open as we expand into the Middle East and beyond.

How much of the training is focussed on the locals at the moment? With Saudisation, Emiritisation and Omanisation taking place, is anything dedicated to the locals?

The GCC is a key area of focus for us and the Talent Tank Internship Programme was specifically curated with the needs of GCC local talent in mind, with a strong focus on building in a short period of time a broad understanding of hospitality business from corporate organisation to preopening and operating hotels.

This core learning is supported with both education and experience; to build leadership skills for young local talent and support the continued emphasis that countries such as Saudi Arabia are placing on local talent career development through localisation programs.

Testament to this, when we open our first hotel – The House Hotel Jeddah - early next year, we have a target of more than 75% Saudisation, and we see the Internship program being a key tool to enhance team confidence and experience.

A large part of this is working in collaboration with local hospitality schools across the GCC to inspire students to elevate their careers in hospitality. In total, around 50% of talent comes from local academies with the Talent Tank Internship Programme adding great value to their educational programs, exposing students to another level of work-experience.

What are the challenges that you face during training?

There’s a lot of talk about how today’s young people lack soft skills such as communication, teamwork, punctuality or even interest to focus on their professional careers. But, through this programme, we have seen the opposite to be true and I have been amazed by how much energy and will they have to succeed. I’d go so far as to say that we found the experience as rewarding, if not more so, than they did!

Indeed, the main challenge we are facing is that there are so many people who are motivated to take part that the challenge is to shortlist the very best talent for our business. It’s enviable problem to have!