|By Chadamas Chinmaneevong, Bangkok Post,
ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 1, 2008 - --Tourism has been a major source of revenue for Thailand for decades, a major source of employment and a key component of national development strategy. Tourism training schools have flourished, but for new graduates, the outlook is dim.
Rudeeporn Inchamchuen, 19, a senior at the Dusit Thani College, said she never believed until now that she would be facing joblessness upon graduation.
"All of my friends and even our parents are worried about us. We see the headlines about estimated unemployment rates both here and abroad every day. This is horrible," Ms Rudeeporn said.
The outlook was poor before anti-government protesters seized Bangkok's two airports last week, but now it has turned downright frightening for the tourism industry.
For Ms Rudeeporn, a major in kitchen and restaurant management, the plan was to start her career at a small restaurant before training as a professional chef at a big-name hotel. That plan is now in jeopardy.
Some of her classmates from wealthy families have the option of continuing their studies abroad. But coming from a middle-income family, Ms Rudeeporn says her horizons are more limited. "In the worst case, a short and affordable course to further my skill may be possible as it will enhance my opportunity in the future."
Pakorn Promkul, who will graduate soon, admits his hope of being a chef on a cruise ship may be out of reach.
"This is quite bad luck. We face crises both inside and outside the country once we graduate," he said.
However, all is not lost in the short term. Mr Pakorn owns a small khao man kai (Hainan chicken rice) restaurant that will bring in some money, but many of his friends have no such safety net.
Atthawet Prougestaporn, deputy director of student affairs and development of Dusit Thani College, said the college was monitoring the situation closely. He hopes it can help match its students with employers at its Career Days 2008 from Dec 11-12. Around 20 hotel and tour operators will be taking part.
"This is a great opportunity for students to meet operators directly," he said. "With our curriculum, I believe our students should not worry about unemployment even amid economic hardship. Their skills can fit into various areas such as restaurants, spas and other businesses in the service sector."
Mr Atthawet also foresees an improvement in the field by the second half of next year, when demand for personnel should revive.
"Actually, I think Thai hospitality graduates' opportunities remain good, especially overseas since the Thai workforce has a reputation for being so highly service-minded," he said.
Dusit Thani College produces 300 graduates annually, of whom 80 percent go on to work in the field. Its programmes include hotel management, kitchen and restaurant management, tourism management, resort and spa management, convention and event management, as well as English programmes in hotel and restaurant management.
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