Mary McGuireOccasionally one comes across that rare individual who doesn’t look for glory or for a pat on the back, but whose quiet work in the background really changes lives.  This is true of Mary McGuire, Director – Protea Hotels Institute for Professional Development & Group Quality Manager, who was recently named as the recipient of a President’s Award from The South African Chefs Association (the SACA).

The award is made by the Association to acknowledge industry stalwarts whose efforts have impacted the hospitality industry in significant ways, and Mary’s 29 years with Protea Hotels – which began as a Personnel Officer – reveal the extent of her contribution to this sector over the period.   The award was announced at the SACA President’s Award Dinner held on 19 January in Johannesburg.

Having joined Protea Hotels in 1987, Mary has demonstrated a passion for personal development and education that transcends the standards set by business to upskill staff.  This zeal for training is demonstrated in Mary’s oft-repeated response to concerns about the cost of training people who may leave the company afterwards, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

“The SACA President’s Award recognises Mary for her exceptional service in hospitality training,” explains Cheryl Buynak, Group Executive – Human Resources, Protea Hotels, a proud member of Marriott International, a leading global hotel group.  “Mary’s enthusiasm for and dedication to training led to the creation of unique learning and development initiatives. These programmes  contributed in a very real way to  introducing hospitality as a career to young South Africans and upskilling our TEAM.” A particularly significant initiative pioneered by Mary was the development of an e-learning platform that caters to Protea Hotels’ more than 8 000 staff members located in over 100 hotels across eight African countries.

The positive impact of Mary’s work is evident in the numbers: through the programmes she developed and implemented, more than 224 individuals have received bursaries for studies in the hospitality field, and over 4 700 students have entered the in-Service programme run by Protea Hotels.

“Mary has truly opened the doors to a world of opportunities through learning and development for our TEAM,” Buynak concludes.

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Mari Vigar, co-owner of La Mouette (holding the certificate on the right) with her winning team HR.