AIR TRAVEL AND RELATED STUDIES CENTRE: SETTING STANDARDS IN TRAINING

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Mr. Charles Gakuo. MD and founder, Air Travel and Related Studies Centre.
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Air Travel and Related Studies Centre, a modern tertiary institution has positioned itself as a market leader in travel, hotel, tourism, languages and management studies both locally and internationally

By Catherine Kuria

It is the dream of every Kenyan that after completing high school they will get the opportunity to join an institution of higher learning to pursue the career of their choice. Parents put a lot of  faith on teachers to feed knowledge, skills and impact growth on their children. Over the years, we have seen private and public universities, tertiary colleges and vocational training institutions open in plenty to offer quality  education and produce highly skilled  graduates who are ready to enter the extremely competitive job market. But do they all offer quality education as most of their mission statements claim or are they after the dime?
In 2017, 615,773 students sat for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). Only 70,073 managed to score C+ grade and above, hence earning a ticket to join public universities. The rest of the candidates were left to tertiary institutions or vocational training colleges. That  demonstrates  that the bigger percentage enrolls in private institutions. There have  been numerous  complaints  from   various  employers  that  Kenya’s institutions of higher learning produce half baked graduates. Critics report that this has been as a result of many private  colleges  offering all manner of courses mushrooming. Is there some truth in this statement or is the education system in need of some serious changes?

Tranquil Environment
Located in the serene environment of Rhino Park Road in Karen, Air Travel and Related Studies Centre celebrates 25 years of academic excellence and prosperity offering courses in tourism, travel and hospitality. From a four-student classroom to beautiful booming centre full of young minds from all walks of life thirsty for knowledge and skills, the institution has grown. “We managed to hold on to tides due to resilience, focus and motivation,” Mr.  Charles Gakuu, the Managing Director (and founder) of Air Travel and Related Studies Centre narrates.

What makes Air Travel and Related Studies Centre’s model unique?
The institution has a long-standing reputation in providing courses in travel and tourism, cabin crew,  airport operations, hotel management,  food production and International Languages. They only offer those five courses since it’s easier to focus on less and make it the best that it can be. All the attention, passion, zeal and drive are focused in training students in those five fields to make them the best that there is not only in the country, but also in the international platform. “If you spread yourself too much, you will lose focus. Just concentrate on a few fields and better yourself in them to be the best that you can be,” Mr. Gakuu continues to narrate.
Through channeling their energy on a few things, the management of Air Travel and Related Studies Centre is able to bring together like-minded students who can live, study and grow together to become professionals in the hotel and tourism sector. “94.39% of our students pass in international exams that enable them to acquire internationally recognized certificates. I have trained generations of students for the past 25 years. I have seen them grow into successful individuals and some of them even bring their children to study here, where they studied too,” the humble, hospitable, jolly and charismatic Mr. Gakuo  observes.
The Managing Director rarely receives any indiscipline cases involving his students at the institution. Here is his secret  :  “I talk to students on a daily basis. When you talk to them as their brother or sister they will listen. I give them real life examples from our alumni. I even invite  some of the alumni  to come and talk to them. They bring them power point presentations that shape them.”

Why choose Air Travel and Related Studies Centre?
The college’s motto is setting ‘setting standards in training’.  For sure, its standards are very high.  It is  the only   hospitality  college  in Africa that is a member of the Premier Circle. The Premier Circle is an international set standard that selects members on the basis of the quality they offer and their performance.  It  is also   an authorized training centre by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Universal Federation of Travel Agents Association (UFTAA). Moreover, it is a member of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA), Worldwide Air Fares and Ticketing (WAFT), The East African Wildlife Society and Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO).
It  provides  programmes that  are  certified by internationally recognized examination bodies like International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) based in the United Kingdom.  Over the years, the premier institution   has received internationally recognized awards.  Despite offering   premium services,  the  college  charges  each  student   kshs 1000 per day only –  making it a total of 90,000 per semester.  It   has full boarding facilities   in order to monitor the students and care for them 24 hours a day.  Of vital importance,  it   has  a well  equipped  and  modern  dining   facility   which  serves  students breakfast, 10:00 am tea, lunch, 4:00 pm tea and dinner.  In the same breath, the management secures industrial attachment for students in Kenya’s   leading   5-star hotels.
Students are offered free computer lessons as they learn and two international languages of their choice free with each course. The languages range from Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Chinese, Arabic, English and Italian. This is to enable them to have proficiency in four language skills; speaking, listening, reading and writing, thus increasing their employment opportunities through elimination of language barriers. The learning hours are conducive as they range from 0700-2000 hours. The college   also offers extracurricular activities like sports which include swimming and basketball.

The Culture
The composition of students at the institution is quite diverse. Approximately 69% of them  are Kenyans. The rest are from Eritrea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Malawi, Djibouti and Mozambique. The school gives a 2 day free safari per semester to the students. This is an opportunity for them to grow, learn and explore the world.
True to  its  rich  brand  heritage,  the college is  keen on  improving   the  quality  of  its  education  daily,  in order  to  meet   the changing  needs in the market.  Its   training  programme  is   hands on  and  it  inculcates  an  entrepreneurial  culture  among  its  students. “ We  believe  in producing all rounded students who  can either  secure formal   jobs  upon graduation, or start their  own enterprises,” says Mr. Gakuo.

WORDS OF WISDOM
Mr. Charles Gakuo : MD
“Learners are   gifted differently and our education system    should therefore embrace middle level colleges. Indeed,  parents should support their children in whichever career path they choose instead  of  forcing  them  to  take  courses  that  they   are not  comfortable  in.”
Mr. Gitonga Muhengere : dean of students
Mr. Gitonga Muhengere, the dean of students at Air Travel and Related Studies Centre has been with the institution for the past 19 years. The welcoming, kind and polite man is not one of many words. As an institution majoring with hospitality, tourism and related studies, he has seen it grow into the empire of quality and excellence that it is today. “My experience in dealing with students is a pleasant one. The institution instills discipline in them, besides teaching   them to be resilient and to be go getters. We have produced and keep on producing quality graduates who will be trend setters in the job market.”

TESTIMONIALS
The dean of School of International Tourism and Travel Mr. Julius Mang’era has been with the college for over 11 years. He attests to the quality that the institution offers its students in that the value for their money can be seen through the outcome. He says that the school of tourism has been at the institution for the last 20 years and adds that they work closely with Qatar and Ethiopian Airlines. This has enabled them to secure industrial attachments for their students and some who end up being employed. “When students are new, they are keen. We nurture that keenness and make them realize the dreams they had before enrolling here. We provide attachments for students who successfully complete their 2-year course in the school of tourism. We give students an opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life even very important people. Units include:  international travel and tourism, international tour guiding and administration, international airline cabin crew duties and international air cargo management,” says Mr. Mangera. His advice to students is that they should shun mushrooming institutions that do not offer quality education.  In the same token, they should venture into tourism since the industry has many employment opportunities. The pass mark for enrolment is a C- mean grade in KCSE and above.

Arlette Uwayo
Arlette Uwayo is a Rwandese student in the institution. She is pursuing a 2 year course in hotel management, hospitality and tourism and is currently on her first semester.”I am confident of realizing my dreams because of enrolling in this college,” says Arlette. “It offers efficient services, the teachers are amazing and friendly, and I’m also learning Kiswahili which is an added advantage,” she says. According to her, the institution combines theory with practical lessons and students are given a lot of exposure through field trips   and   industrial attachment.

Josephine Njeri
Josephine Njeri was a cabin crew student at the institution. She is currently on industrial attachment at Kenya Aerotech at the JKIA which mainly works with Fly Emirates. “My experience was awesome. I learned a lot at the college and I can say it is the best because I am now putting that into practice. I interacted a lot with teachers, went for swimming lessons and also first aid training. I stand out among my fellow peers on attachment since the college provides me with transport, accommodation in school and meals. I always go to work on time because of   that arrangement,” narrates Josephine.

Evans Kimani
Evans Kimani is an alumnus of the institution. We met him while he had come back to the institution to give students a career talk on how to conquer personal responsibilities and   how to be focused by sharing his story and career path.  He joined the institution on July 1st 2013 and studied for three years. He was attached at Lake Naivasha Simba Lodge for 6 months. He later went to another restaurant at ABC Place in Westlands still as an intern. On the second month he got a promotion and was fully employed by the company. Evans is currently working at Movenpick Hotel and Residence, the biggest hotel in Nairobi County situated in Westlands. He says that the school instilled in him discipline, hard work and perseverance and that being patient is what made him stand out. “I didn’t want to lose my job and spoil the name of the institution. I had to positively represent my school. My advice to students is to be patient, work hard and be humble,” says Evans.
Linda Mburu could not contain her enthusiasm. She is an International cabin crew student and has been studying at the institution for the past one year. “The college is fine I can’t complain. It’s nice since we are offered two languages of our choice. Personally, I study Arabic and Spanish and I enjoy the swimming and first aid lessons,” narrates Linda.

Irene Gakwa
Irene Gakwa is an alumnus of the institution. She cleared school in 2004 and has been in the job market for quite a while. “My experience was simply amazing. Lecturers are friendly and Mr. Gakuo knows every student by his or her name.
The job market has been favourable and when I go for interviews, and they ask which institution I schooled at, the moment they hear Air Travel and Related Studies Centre they are just like wow. The college has a very good reputation in the hospitality industry because of its track record,” she says.

Faith Mwangi
The   staff members are hospitable to the students and alumni. Faith Mwangi is the head of administration at Air Travel and Related Studies Centre. She says:  “ATRSC is a centre of excellence in hospitality, travel and tourism. It is an institution that has built a strong brand. We have produced so many graduates over the past 25 years of training. Students walk in untrained and walk out as professionals ready to conquer the world. That’s a very big difference because we train them well and it’s nice to walk into an airline and find the cabin crew you trained working there.” She further adds that, “We orient students about our programmes and ensure that they pick the right careers. Orientation is key and the reason why we do it is because it helps students to make the right decisions about what they want to pursue. We have two schools:  tourism and travel as well as hospitality. We want to make a name for ourselves hence we specialize in those two fields in order to produce quality and provide the best. We have highly qualified and experienced   staff who are very friendly to the students. We do international accreditations for our student that is IATA and ICM which are internationally recognized. A course undertaken at Air Travel and Related Studies Centre is like no other. You walk in through that door and you won’t walk out the same again. “

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