BCC student, Tonquanja Giddings, celebrates her WorldSkills Barbados 2020 Best of Competition win with her Restaurant Service coach, Cherise Osbourne. (TVET Council Barbados)

April 22 is celebrated annually as Earth Day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. This year it will be observed globally under the theme #SkillsSustain. WorldSkills International (WSI) is supporting the occasion by highlighting how youth are contributing to a more sustainable world. WorldSkills Barbados 2020 champion Tonquanja Giddings shares how she contributes to a sustainable earth while preparing for her career. For more please click here.

Looking at a dining table, most would see nothing more than the setting for dinner. But among the crisp linens and napkins, the sheen of the silverware and the purposeful placement of each element, Tonquanja Giddings sees a world of its own, one full of delicacy, detailing and intricacy that can make the diner’s experience memorable.

It’s a world in which she thrives, and one that the second-year student in Restaurant Service at the Barbados Community College’s Hospitality Institute (BCCHI), sees as home. While it’s not the typical career that some declare as their calling, Giddings has found her passion through cooking, experimenting with flavors and building a place where customers can feel welcomed.

Through her training, Giddings has become committed to giving the pinnacle of service to her customers, and she’s equally committed to creating and preserving a sustainable and healthy environment by using biodegradable and reusable products like cups and cutlery.

One of six students in her class that competed at the World Skills Barbados (WSB) Competition last year, the competition novice says she was shocked yet proud when she captured the Gold Medal in Restaurant Service, and, the Best of Competition Award. But it came as no surprise to those around her.

“I was extremely pleased when Tonquanja was named the gold medalist as she worked tremendously hard at training sessions … she was very competitive and always strived to be ahead of her colleagues. She would even do extra work at home and would often demonstrate at training sessions,” said restaurant captain at the BCCHI, Cherise Osbourne.

When it came to training, Giddings never missed a beat or passed up an opportunity to cultivate her budding skills in “internal and offsite functions”, where Osbourne says she “… always showcased that she was conscientious … detailed oriented … [and] possessed the desired demeanor for the hospitality industry.”

Tonquanja Giddings, overall winner of the WorldSkills Barbados 2020 Competition, on the way to her gold medal win in Restaurant Service. (TVET Council Barbados)

But though the second-year student garnered so much success at the competition, months before she had reached one of her lowest points while preparing, as in-person class came to an abrupt end.

“When COVID-19 came to Barbados and the country was on lockdown, I had lost a great deal of enthusiasm about the competition. That’s because there was no way for me to train for months,” Giddings said.

When schools eventually resumed with a mix of in-person and online teaching, she learned what it meant to be adaptable and versatile, two skills that she and Osbourne agree are key for working in the fast-paced and vast industry.

She also encourages more students like her to compete at WSB, citing the real-life experience as a great support for a professional career and that it gave her back the enthusiasm to keep doing what she loves.

To those who choose to follow her path, she advises them “to always challenge yourself, be brave and always aim for achievement, because if you do not you will miss out on opportunities that would be beneficial to you.”

As Giddings continues to ride the wave of her success, she has opted to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management at the University of the West Indies Cave hill Campus. Today, her path is charted and those in the industry can rest assured that she will be here to impress for years to come.

TVET Council Barbados

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