Should your company support a scholarship?

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Funding a scholarship is a significant investment for any organisation but it’s one that Kiwi hotel chain Sudima is happy to do – here, the company’s HR head offers insight into the initiative and explains why other employers should consider something similar.

“The Ngati Whakaue Scholarship is something that we’re really proud of because it sits close to the heart of our company values which are people, community and sustainable tourism,” says Phillipa Gimmillaro, HR director at Sudima Hotels and Resorts.

Established in partnership with the Ngati Whakaue Education Endowment Trust, the scholarship offers young people of Ngati Whakaue descent the chance to build a meaningful career in tourism.

“They come and work with us for the first 12 months and they get a real overview of how the hotel works, all the different facets and different departments,” says Gimmillaro.

“After that, they move into the tertiary education and pursue a three-year degree at university then once they’ve graduated they come back to us and we move them into a junior manager role.”

Launched in 2014, the organisation has just welcomed its first graduate back into the workforce.

“Our first graduate is moving into a duty manager role in January and he’s been working on and off during the holidays to make sure he keeps his skills set up,” says Gimmillaro.

However, entering into the scholarship is a big commitment from all parties involved and Sudima is incredibly careful when selecting the recipient.

“We have quite a thorough process to ensure that we do select the recipient that will be able to see the program right through,” Gimmillaro tells HRD.

Starting with an application form, candidates are also expected to provide letters of recommendation from their school and any credentials they have from the community. Once a short-list had been drawn up, Sudima invites the candidates to a panel interview, though this is slightly different to typical interviews.

“The interview is for about 45 minutes to an hour but we do ask that they bring a support person with them, whether that’s a family member or friend, so we can ensure they’re comfortable at that meeting,” reveals Gimmillaro.

“It’s quite intimidating and it’s often their first interview so we want to make sure they feel welcome – it also gives us an opportunity to meet some of the family and find out a little bit more about who they are.”

While there’s a clear benefit for the recipient, Gimmillaro says Sudima reaps countless rewards too.
“Young people have so much to offer us and these kinds of programs are fantastic, they’re so rewarding, as long as the person has solid support networks both inside the workplace and outside,” she tells HRD.

“I’d absolutely recommend other organisations consider something similar, as long as you’re able to provide regular feedback and check in to find out how they’re going – I think you’ll see a huge reward at the end.”

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