John Keells Foundation, the CSR entity of the John Keells Group, launched `Skill into Progress (SKIP)’ – a new initiative to support the upskilling of identified supplier groups of the John Keells Group to enhance their standard and quality of service and thereby income opportunities in a post-pandemic environment.
The inaugural session of ‘SKIP’ was held on 6th July 2020, at John Keells Head Office in Colombo 02 with the introduction of a customised programme to enhance the English Language communication skills of chauffeur guides of Walkers Tours (WTL) and Whittal Boustead Travel (WBTL) and safari jeep drivers of Yala sourced through Cinnamon Nature Trails. The pilot programme targetting 40 pre-assessed candidates – comprising approximately 50% from Colombo and Yala respectively – is funded under the John Keells English Language Scholarship Programme, a long-term initiative of John Keells Foundation (JKF), and is implemented in collaboration with WTL and WBTL together with technical partner Gateway Language Centre.
Speaking at the inauguration, Ms. Carmeline Jayasuriya, JKF’s Head of Operations, stated, “John Keells Foundation is delighted to introduce this initiative to upskill supplier groups associated with our businesses at a time when livelihoods have been greatly challenged by a global pandemic. We are delighted to partner with WTL, WBTL and Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts in this pilot programme for chauffeur guides and jeep drivers. The Foundation has been empowering various target groups over the past fifteen years under its vision of `Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow’. We hope that this initiative will help enhance your English communication skills in a way that positively impacts your quality of service and market demand. I would like to acknowledge the ready support extended by the Gateway Language Centre in developing this customized programme within a short period and also our John Keells volunteers particularly from the Leisure Sector who will be supporting the participants in completing this course.”
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Nalaka Amaratunga, CEO, Destination Management Sector, John Keells Group, stated, “it is important to be ready and prepared when Sri Lanka resumes tourism, and this downtime has given us the opportunity to sharpen the skills of our chauffeur guides and jeep drivers. WTL and WBTL, as responsible entities of the largest conglomerate in Sri Lanka, are keen to contribute significantly to uplift the image of the country and rebuild tourism with the support of all our stakeholders and together with JKF make this initiative a success.”
Speaking on behalf of the technical partner, Ms. Wathsala Dissanayake, Manager, Gateway Language Centre, said, “Gateway has been working with John Keells Foundation for the past fifteen years. We are excited to take this new initiative forward and would like to thank JKF for the opportunity.”
21 chauffeurs selected from Colombo were present at the inauguration and expressed their pleasure in being provided this opportunity in these challenging times. The programme will involve 36 hours of industry-related English communication skills training. Selection was based on a pre-assessment conducted by Gateway Language Centre and successful candidates will receive a Certificate of completion. Mr. W.G.C Priyal, a participant from Colombo commented, “I would like to thank John Keells Foundation and Walkers Tours for arranging this programme for us. We participated in a few classes and found it to be very useful and I believe we will be able to sharpen our skills by the end of this course.”
John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), is the largest diversified conglomerate in Sri Lanka operating over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors. JKH is a full member of the World Economic Forum and a Participant member of the UN Global Compact. JKH drives its CSR vision of “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow” through its CSR entity, John Keells Foundation under six focus areas comprising Education, Health, Environment, Livelihood Development, Arts & Culture and Disaster Relief.