District 9220 Governor Vineeta Nand was delighted to visit the construction site of a standalone housekeeping training facility currently being built in Lautoka, Fiji.
After a covid-induced hiatus of almost three years, the construction of a mock-up hotel room resumed in June at the Drasa Charmer School of Hospitality located within Drasa Secondary School in Lautoka, Fiji.
Since 2012, under the support of the Rotary Fiji Schools Project, Drasa Secondary School has operated two technical and vocational educational training centres (TVET). 
The Drasa Charmer School of Hospitality currently provides industrial training in all aspects of hospitality except housekeeping which will soon be on offer.  The state-of-the-art facilities provides a training bar, training restaurant, training kitchen, and the soon to be completed a mock-up hotel room which allows students to learn and practice their skills and knowledge in realistic settings.
Students graduate with Certificate II level qualifications recognised by Fiji’s higher education.  Currently, there are 53 students enrolled in the Hospitality school who are now doing practical attachments in some of Fiji’s top resorts such as Radisson, Sheraton, and the Intercontinental.  The student’s ability to adapt quickly in the workplace has led to many of them being offered full-time positions after they graduate at the end of the year. The hospitality school also has 20 students on attachment with Airport Terminal Services (ATS) and the school is working with ATS to further develop this partnership.
The Rotary Fiji Schools Project was initiated by Veena Tilly, a member of the Rotary Club of Nambucca Valley (District 9660). Veena and her husband Denys have been running the project for the last 18 years and currently work with about 30 schools in Fiji mainly providing IT hardware, books, school resources, and professional learning.
“We focus on providing support for rural schools to give students opportunities in education and work that they would otherwise not have,” stated Veena.
Apart from providing resources and upgrading facilities, the Project has also offered hands-on learning through volunteering hospitality professionals like Chef Andrew Watts and his wife Munjula, who have operated successful restaurants in Adelaide, South Australia for over 40 years. They have returned regularly to Fiji to conduct intensive training for teachers and students in a range of food preparation.  In June this year, the couple were returned to Fiji to train students on how to prepare a three-course gourmet meal which was served to Fiji’s Minister for Education and 16 other high ranking government officials.
The Minister commented on how amazed he was that such a high-quality facility existed in a rural area in the middle of sugar cane farms and that the students were so well-trained and could produce such wonderful food.
The new housekeeping facility is timely given Fiji currently experiencing shortages of trained hospitality workers due to the exodus of workers under labour mobility programs in Australia and New Zealand, there is an urgent need to replace and train new workers to fill the void they have left.
According to Fiji’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Bill Gavoka, since 2021, a staggering 16,000 tourism workers have left Fiji, and this has caused concern for the Tourism Industry which is experiencing an influx of tourists who have been flocking to Fiji since its borders reopened.
Investment Fiji has projected that Fiji’s tourism industry will grow to a FJD3 billion industry. It is anticipated that by the end of 2024, there will be up to 1 million tourists visiting Fiji. As a result, Fiji needs more resort and hotel investments to keep up with demand and take advantage of the increased interest in the country.