Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Earn, learn and taste fun
Peeyush Agnihotri

Many of those who have just completed their plus two are following that old school motto 'learn to serve' quite literally. They are joining fast-food outlets in the city and its satellite towns of Panchkula and Mohali as trainees in droves during their summer vacations.

The motives of these youngsters vary. For some it is the money, for others it is a desire to gain on-the-job experience that may come in handy for a course in hotel management. Many want to utilise their holidays gainfully while others want to fund their future studies. Then there are those who want to impress their girlfriends with the money they earn.

Whatever the reasons, working in fast-food joints makes a lot of sense as you get paid a substantial sum for a four-hour slot. All a youngster needs is to be more than 18 years of age and a plus two passout, as per industrial norms. Many students are funding their studies that way. "Even I did my B.Sc while serving at a fast-food outlet in Delhi", says Rajeshwar, a manager at McDonald's in Fun Republic.

According to data available with the Institute of Tourism and Future Management Trends (ITFT), the hospitality industry constitutes 6 per cent of the service sector job pie.

The trend of serving at fast-food outlets in order to earn and learn is catching on because it has benefits galore. To start with, the employability prospects of the student increase. He gains hands-on experience and acquires the inter-personal skills required in the industry. Besides, dependency on parents decreases, says Prof. Narinder Kumar Sharma of the tourism faculty at the ITFT.

According to Jitender Kiwi, Senior Manager, Hot Millions, Sector 17, Chandigarh, the benefits of such summer jobs are immense. "If a person is desirous of pursuing a career in food technology and the hotel industry, this experience holds him in good stead. A six-hour job schedule may fetch them a few thousand bucks and a teenager gets placed in the industry early," he opines.

"In fact, this is the only job where you get ready money. In other jobs, a credit-system is followed under which you have to work for one month to get your salary," says Principal S.K. Saluja of the Chandigarh-based Food Craft Institute. He, however, feels that this western-concept of summer jobs has not seeped into Indian society completely but is making inroads gradually.

Dheeraj Punj, Vice-President (Operations), Fun City, says for most of the youngsters the concept of doing a summer job in hotels and fast-food outlets has gained social acceptability. "Even parents do not object anymore and for most of the passouts getting a job is the primary aim. Education, which continues through correspondence courses, is secondary. The best part is that this summer job experience gives a kind of confidence to the youngsters that no study can offer," Punj adds. But he is quick to point out towards the negative trend of the westernisation of today's youth. On the flip side, the youngsters flush with this quick money stand more chance of going astray, he cautions.

The misgivings apart, these kind of summer jobs are hot with the youth. "During the vacations, there is a surge in the number of applications we get for summer jobs," says Shalini, Assistant Manager, Domino's. "Trainees are placed in three key areas customer service, delivery and teleservice. Part-timers get nearly Rs 2,000 while full-timers earn Rs 3,500. At the end of their tenure, they are given certificates which come in handy," she says.

Ask the trainees and summer-job enthusiasts and most of them recount their experience rather gleefully. "I worked for a while with a coffee outlet in the city before being selected for a management course at a college in Punjab. The job experience has made me kind of more mature,' says Rishabh, a BBA student.

Another delivery boy, when asked to recount his experience, simply winked and sang the famous ad jingle "I'm lovin' it" before scooting off to home-deliver a pizza.