Students in the hospitality division at the SA College for Tourism are putting on a fashion show to test out their new event planning skills. It is taking place at the college campus situated in what used to be the renowned Panorama Hotel that was gifted by the Rupert family to start the hospitality division years ago.

2002 saw the official opening of the hospitality division by Mrs Zanele Mbeki, South Africa’s first lady at the time, and the first class of hospitality students graduate. Now containing a state-of-the-art training facility, the campus has everything students need to become experts in their field and to host events like this fashion show.

As an event, a fashion show includes many of the aspects students need to cover, from planning and preparing the food and drink to table layout, buffet setup, computer skills and presentation. Events like this prepare the students so that later on, when they are working in the industry they will be able to handle large events like weddings and other functions.

Impoverished, unskilled young people in southern Africa are specifically recruited by the SA College for Tourism for their year-long courses in hospitality. Teaching students vitally important, highly sought-after skills for the tourism industry, graduates are then able to return to their communities as entrepreneurs with small tourism businesses or to work as part of the local eco-tourism industry within or around conservation areas. The idea is to grant opportunities to learners from rural areas and so break the poverty cycle.

The year’s training covers all aspects of hospitality, from the kitchen and restaurant to housekeeping and front of house.

Most of the students are young women, and with 90% of recruits going on after the course to find permanent employment, this course is an important steppingstone towards lifting the quality of life for impoverished families.

Some graduates have also opened their own guest houses and coffee shops. One is head of housekeeping at a well-known 5-star hotel in Cape Town, and others are now working overseas and on cruise ships. Many students are from areas where Peace Parks Foundation works and the hope is that some return home to these areas to cater for visitors to the transfrontier conservation areas.