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Front-of-house and housekeeping, bar and kitchen staff: at the Robinson Clubs in Turkey, the TUI Group has been training young skilled workers to everyone’s satisfaction for many years. Some of these young people are on a special programme quali­fying them for the equivalent of a German Journeyman’s Certificate – thanks to a close partnership between the Turkish Ministry of Edu­cation and the Chamber of Trade and Industry in Hanover. Impressions of a course with a positive outlook.

Swotting for the future: in winter
the Robinson Club trainees
return to their school desks for a
theory stage. In summer they
are out in the practical word.

The giant red flag with the crescent flaps gently in the wind that blows across from the Turkish Riviera. Relaxed holidaymakers are sitting at a few dozen tables enjoying the Turkish food, the wine and the strong, bitter-sweet mocha that rounds it off. A trio of musicians are playing on the stage, joined later by a belly dancer. Her performance is impressive, and the audience applauds enthusiastically.

A typical holiday idyll at the Robinson Club Camyuva. Günce Yildiz observes the proceedings from the other side of a wide trolley. A moment ago the slim young woman in chef’s whites had no time for the atmospheric scenery. The 20-year-old has been concentrating for two hours on arranging gözleme – delicate flaky pastry with a spicy sheep’s cheese filling – on white plates, garnishing them with parsley, wedges of lemon and balls of kisir made from bulgur, chopping ingredients and explaining to inquisitive guests what she is doing. And despite the pressure finding time to make her appreciative audience feel at home with a friendly glance and a joke or two.

Günce Yildiz has come here to the sun-drenched flagship resort to train for the hospitality trade as part of the Robinson Education Project. 64 young men and women hoping to work on reception or in a restaurant or kitchen are engaged in “dual training”, with theory lessons at vocational college and practical sessions at the Club. “We worked hard to establish this form of apprenticeship, which is still unusual for Turkey,” says Gülsün Candar, who grew up in Germany, studied Economics in Tübingen and knows both cultures very well. She manages all the training at the four Robinson Clubs that delight holidaymakers with their beautiful settings around Antalya. Since 2003 Gülsün Candar has found a way, together with the Turkish Education Ministry, to have the two-year vocational training and the journeyman certificate recognised by the state.

A life in two worlds

Most of the young workers are training to work as waiters, baristas or chefs. But there is something special about Günce and another twenty or so 17- to 23-year-olds: they have spent at least part of their lives in Germany and speak both languages very well. “They manage perfectly over here and at the same time they understand the mentality of our German customers,” says Gülsün Candar.

This training for the hospitality business is different from a purely Turkish qualification. “Since 2010 we have been involved in a close partnership with the Chamber of Trade and Industry (CTI) in Hanover,”explains the HR manager. Apart from being taught by the Robinson Club experts and state schools, they spend another year training at the Club, with additional CTI modules and then an external examination, which enables them to obtain the certificate of equivalence. “That means their qualification is also recognised in Germany,” says Gülsün Candar. Additional topics covered by the course include marketing, sourcing and more in-depth knowledge about service and kitchen work.

Günce Yildiz herself is a good example of how the two worlds merge. The young woman was born in Turkey, but just after she started school she moved to Delmenhorst in Lower Saxony because her father had a job in Germany. There she completed a Realschule, a secondary school which lays the basis for vocational training. “I had wanted to work in tourism for a long time, because I enjoy contact with people,” she explains. Besides, her uncle and her father worked in the family travel agency, so her links with the sector were forged at an early age.

She had already begun training in hospitality at a hotel in Bremen when she was accepted by Robinson. “I knew straight away that it was what I wanted to do,” says Günce Yildiz, who gave up her traineeship and switched to TUI. Her mother, who found the recruitment brochure, encouraged her to follow her instinct, especially as the family had wanted to return to their home country. On her days off, the young woman can stay with her parents in Antalya. “So I felt I was being looked after twice over.”

Youngsters with big plans

Ahmet Güneş, who has successfully completed his training and now works at the Robinson Club Pamfilya, is also from Germany. The 23-year-old grew up in Limburg an der Lahn and after finishing school he was determined to work in Turkey. He had a clear and am­bitious aim: “I would like to manage a hotel in Istanbul some time,” says the keen amateur footballer, who is a fan of Galatasaray and attends as many matches in Turkey’s biggest city as he can. “I know I have a long way to go, but I reckon this training is a great start.”

Before that, his next stop will be back in Germany at Robinson Club in Fleesensee, where he has already worked. “I just like our Clubs and the close contact we have with our customers. That’s why I want to gain as much experience as I can and perhaps become a Robinson Trainee.” That is the programme where young hopefuls are prepared for managerial positions. “Our young people are highly motivated,” confirms Gülsün Candar, as she hands out a multiple-choice test in the training room at the Robinson Club.

»I just like our Clubs and the close contact we have with our customers. That’s why I want to gain as much experience as I can and perhaps become a Robinson Trainee.«

Ahmet Güneş, journeyman at Robinson Club Camyuva

The questions are about the routines a receptionist must master perfectly. The trainees at the desks are quietly focussed on the exercises, solve them quickly and hand in their papers early. They are always conscientious, whether applying themselves to the theory in winter, when the Clubs are closed, or doing their practicals in summer.

Günce Yildiz, who likes drawing in her spare time and has recently taken up riding, doesn’t only work on reception, in guest relations and in housekeeping; sometimes she takes on a tandem role – in the kitchen, for example. It might mean preparing fresh food in front of the customers at a Turkish Evening, or working in the main restaurant or the à-la-carte restaurant, or lending a hand at one of the diverse bars in the Club grounds.

Head of HR visits applicants

The purpose of the Robinson Education Project is not just to recruit well-trained workers for the company. “We are assuming our social responsibilities by integrating young people through work,” says Gülsün Candar. Youth unemployment is high in Turkey, especially in regions like Anatolia or the Black Sea coast. One sign that the Robinson Clubs take this seriously is that the head of Human Resources frequently travels around Turkey conducting interviews. “We have about 900 people applying to train as a chef, for example. The applicants’ school record is not the most important thing. I want to sense their passion and enthusiasm,” says Gülsün Candar. So she meets the candidates in their home towns, especially as many families lack the economic resources to pay for their children to attend the Robinson Clubs.

»We want to grow and thereby maintain the same high quality at Robinson. This is only possible with well-trained and motivated employees.«

Ingo Burmester, Managing Director Robinson

It is often a long way from home to the place of training. It was no different for Günce Yildiz and the three friends who share a bedroom with her at the Club. “We work shifts, so it’s unusual for us all to be here together,” she says, sprawling on her upper bunk and putting her novel to one side. “But we can rely on each other.” She bends down to the bunk below, where her room-mate is knitting a black scarf. “If anything is wrong there is someone we can talk to.” HR manager Gülsün Candar assents with a smile – and describes the many evenings when she has sat on the edge of a bed to console a homesick or lovesick trainee.

It is Günce Yildiz’s turn to laugh. “It isn’t that bad,” says the confident young woman reassuringly. She likes to stroll around Antalya or sit in one of the cafés with a fantastic view of Konyaalti Beach below the city. “The best thing is that some of my colleagues have become good friends. We help each other, even after work. It makes working in this amazing atmosphere all the more enjoyable.”

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