BITC's International Youth Employment Programme celebrates its 5,000 graduate

Nilantha Sampath was announced as the 5,000 graduate of the Youth Career Initiative (YCI) at a ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

The programme is a partnership with the global hotel industry to help young people to improve their skills and secure employment. Currently active in 22 countries and 38 places, the programme includes Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, NH, Oberoi, Radisson, Soneva and Taj as hotel partners, and achieved 78% employment rates last year.

Nilantha is the latest graduate of the programme, having completed his training at the Hilton Colombo Residences. Like other YCI students, Nilantha faced a challenging start in life. Aged 3, Nilantha was taken into the care of SOS Children’s Villages, where he has lived ever since.

Since being a teenager - Nilantha’s ambition has been to become a chef – the next MasterChef winner, or Gordon Ramsey. SOS supported Nilantha to pursue further education in support of this dream, but he struggled to get the grades to progress on an academic path.

The launch of YCI in Sri Lanka in 2018 gave Nilantha new hope, and the chance to experience life in an international hotel. He was selected for the programme by the Hilton Colombo Residences, and embarked on learning from mentors across a range of departments, whilst attending classes in basic English, problem solving and communication. It was when training in the kitchen that he found his interest in baking and cake decorating.

With his experience and newly acquired skills, Nilantha has been able to take his first step on the career ladder, securing a job as a commis chef at a four star hotel in Colombo. 

In 2019, YCI plans to expand significantly in Sri Lanka, with up to eight hotels set to join the programme next year.