The prospect of strengthening tourism in the Free State has been bolstered. This was done with the training of 96 candidates who successfully completed the Hospitality Youth Training Programme in the province. The programme, presented over 12 months, was funded by the Department of Tourism.The department approved a budget of R4 million to accommodate 100 candidates from the Free State. The group adds to the more than 500 candidates that graduated from the programme in the 2018-’19 financial year. According to Elizabeth Thabethe, deputy minister of Tourism, the programme has equipped candidates with the necessary skills to venture into the industry as entrepreneurs and employees of the various stakeholders. She spoke at the graduation event at the Naval Hill Planetarium in Bloemfontein on 29 March.“Your accomplishment is important in seeking opportunities to empower yourselves to enter the workplace. Your efforts are not only a reflection of your will to succeed, it is an affirmation of your active participation in building a better country,” said Thabethe. “I urge you to continue to look for opportunities to empower yourselves beyond this point, so that your families and communities can share in the greater benefits gained from freedom.” The graduates originate from Thaba Nchu, Clarens and Xhariep. They received a national certificate in Food and Beverage Services (NQF level 4), and a national certificate in Accommodation Services (NQF level 2). The qualification is accredited by the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (Cathsseta). Training comprised of 30% theory and 70% practical work, covering the importance of service excellence and professionalism in the tourism industry. Candidates were trained at various hospitality establishments within the province.