New Zealand’s service training program “will miss target”


When Prime Minister John Key launched the KiaOraMai training program two years ago, it was touted as raising the skills of 10,000 service-industry workers in time for the Rugby World Cup.

The project was given initial funding of $440,000 by the Economic Development Ministry and has since received $480,000 more from the Government through the Tertiary Education Commission.

But it now emerges that, with 46 days to go till the World Cup, only 1000 people have completed the course.

The Tourism Industry Association, which developed the program to train people in the hospitality, accommodation, travel and transport sectors, insists it is still worthwhile and says the global economic crisis and a low ebb in the hospitality industry have contributed to the low uptake of trainees.

Policy and research manager Simon Wallace said KiaOraMai was developed to address concerns that there was no recognisable entry-level standard for working in customer service. “There was an acknowledgement that service levels in the industry need to improve, not just because of the World Cup but beyond the World Cup.”

The intended target of 10,000 trainees before the end of 2011 would not be reached because the industry had been going through a tough time, and training “unfortunately does fall off when businesses are really challenged”, he said.

Employers had to pay $112.70 for each employee to do the course.

It was also expected that the 5000 projected volunteers for the Rugby World Cup would do the KiaOraMai training, but this had not happened. Instead, they were trained by Rugby New Zealand 2011.

Rugby New Zealand 2011 hospitality manager Ian Crowe said KiaOraMai had been included as an optional module in its four-module programme EventStarNZ, which was compulsory for hospitality workers at cup venues.

However, few people had opted to do it. “I don’t think there was ever an understanding from our perspective that KiaOraMai was going to be training all the volunteers. We’ve assisted them in promoting it … but it’s never been our requirement.”

So far, 4000 hospitality workers had completed EventStarNZ training.

An Economic Development Ministry spokesman said that, although KiaOraMai “hasn’t been as successful as we hoped”, it was still considered value for money. “Due to problems in the tourism industry, it is understandable that numbers haven’t picked up so much … we expect they will improve as the industry picks up.”

He said that, at the time of the initial funding, it was hoped World Cup volunteers would do the training. He did not know why this had not happened.

KiaOraMai is administered by the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation. A Tertiary Education Commission spokesman said the training organisations that provided the program reported back every three months, and funding was based on enrolments.

A half-price deal is now being advertised on the KiaOraMai website.

Zoo staffers see benefits of KiaOraMai

Having put his staff members through the KiaOraMai program, Wellington Zoo customer service manager Glenn Reddiex believes it is beneficial.

“I believe that any course like this [needs] to be well-structured and delivered to work. The whole program seemed to work well.”

The local customer service industry was well-placed to welcome visitors for the Rugby World Cup, he said. “From what I’ve seen we can take a lot of pride in the skill we have in the service industry. I haven’t, touch wood, had a bad experience. I think we are all set to play host to something like the World Cup.”

Wellington Zoo customer service adviser Rachel McElwain completed the course this year. “It took about three months to do and I really enjoyed it.

“You find out different ways you can approach customer service and you learn more about New Zealand too, which is great in preparation for the World Cup.

“It builds on skills you’ve already got and it really helps you understand the different type of visitors you may get and what their expectations are.

“It was definitely a valuable experience for me.”