Training institutes worried about business sustainability

With the COVID-19 control measures in place, all schools including technical training institutes have had to close down. Owners of private institutes are worried about the business sustainability.

Proprietor and Principal of Yarab Institute, a tourism and hospitality institute in Thimphu, Sangay Zam, said that they had been unable to manage their regular office due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and even due to the unfulfilling circumstances that the hotel and hospitality industries have to practice, which require training in person than online. She said that almost half of the trainees had called them seeking reimbursement of their fees, but due to the uncertainty of the matter, they were unable to comply with their request.

She said that the institute had divided the money that they got through loans and profit reserves for expenses and salaries till March. They managed to pay only half salary for the staff in April as they only scheduled work for half a month.

She said that the institute had to be very transparent in case of finances after March since there was no expected business for at least some months to come. She said that the staff is currently on unpaid leave, and the institute has asked the staff to apply to other work places, since the COVID-19 impact has fallen hard on the industry.

She added that some of the staff have even resigned due to the current circumstances. She said that there was no other choice but to hand them the resignation option as the company had been managing the payments through its own means. However, she said that she is very thankful to His Majesty’s Kidu Relief, which most of the staff have applied for given the dire situation.

She said that her family members, who are working with her in the company, do not want to claim the Kidu Relief for now as they are managing.  But if the COVID-19 dire situation prolongs then they will have to apply for the Kidu.

“The biggest worry for us is about sustainability, and how we would be able to assure job placements to our prospective trainees, as a lot of them come to us with aspirations of job placements. With the tourism and hospitality industry being hit really hard, a lot of our alumni from the Middle East countries have come back, and there are certainly an increased number of skilled and trained people who are jobless and whom the prospective trainees have to compete with for jobs,” she added.

Another institute owner from Phuentsholing, Talman Chhetri, Computer and Management Institute (CMI), said he had to leave Phuentsholing to start farming back in his village in Tsirang for the time being.

He said that he had managed to pay his staff 50 percent of their pay in March, even without work. He did not receive a rent waiver and had to pay the institute space rent and the salaries from his own savings. He asked his staff to apply for the Kidu Relief if necessary.

He said he is hopeful that the trainees would come back once the disease settles down. He said COVID-19 will leave a devastating impact on the training industry. He said that the institute had tried to launch some online programs which were not effective as a lot of the trainees did not take heed to register online and avail themselves of the services hosted on WhatsApp and the institute website.

Similarly, Institute of Management Studies (IMS) launched courses online, of which one was a program for the people in quarantine for mindfulness and emotional intelligence, which the trainer and media spokesperson highlighted.

He said that the institute is paying the 15 staff regularly with working capital loans and has not laid off any of the staff. There is a demand for the institute’s online training.

“Of course, there is a huge difference when it comes to most of our training, as it requires group and team effort to learn, more physically immersive experiences, and another aspect of learning in person. However, I believe that, the online method will be a new norm for us in regard to some subjects and it is about how we can carry on and capitalize on some of these things in the future.”

He said that they are currently using Zoom software for communication with their trainees and some of them have taken the initiative well enough. Zoom also lets them introduce and make foreign speakers available for the sessions.

He said that the biggest pressure on them comes from the financial institutions asking them to pay-off their loan amount (via letters), and therefore, they are compelled to charge money for the online webinars that was otherwise free of cost.

A proprietor for Advanced Institute for tourism in Thimphu, Rinchen Khandu, is of the opinion that the tourism-based industry will bear the negative repercussion from COVID-19 for atleast 2 years, and that it would be hard to expect more trainees coming for training given that almost 4,000- 5,000 people are currently jobless in the industry.

He said that even when the border restrictions open, many foreigners will be very reluctant to travel, and moreover, he fears that a lot of them being jobless due to COVID-19 may not have the necessary savings or the desire to travel anywhere soon.

As per the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources’ website, there are about 121 institutes registered with the ministry for various training services ranging from tailoring, driving and up to ICT training centers.

About Abhinaya Chhetri

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