food / travel

Über Internship: Italian Students Given Keys To Run A 3-Star Hotel

The only program of its kind in Europe requires a group of high school students to manage a 150-bed chalet in the Italian Dolomite mountains for two weeks -- with no grownup supervision. But this is not a test: the hotel has real, paying customers who hav

The hotel
The hotel
Federico Taddia

LA POLSA - "Managing a hotel? So easy a kid could do it," Giada Cuel says with a smile. And she means it. For two weeks, this 19-year-old from the mountain village of Folgaria has been the director of the three-star hotel La Betulla, located in the La Polsa resort on the Brentonico plateau, in Italy's Dolomites mountains.

She has managed a staff of 49 students turned into managers, cooks, waiters, and marketing consultants who were in charge of the 150-bed hotel, without any help from grownups. The very real -- and very demanding -- customers are students from other schools and special guests, such as local businessmen or the ambassador of Burundi, who was paying an official visit to the region.

Launched ten years ago in the Don Milani high school in the town of Rovereto, "Mission in Polsa" is the only project of its kind in Europe, allowing kids to manage a hotel for two weeks in a completely independent way.

"We wanted to provide the students with an opportunity to do for real the things that they study, with real responsibilities," says professor Maurio Enea who came up with the idea of the project. "Too often during their internships, our students are offered only minor duties. Our goal is to give them the opportunity to choose, to make decisions, maybe to make mistakes -- but always using their own brains."

Enea notes that the students are expected to run the business effectively--and to keep budgets balanced. "They have to work together to succeed in answering the customers' needs, and consequently obtaining a reward," he explains.

Each student has a role. There is one director, two deputy directors, and managers for every department, from reception to entertainment, from the "rooms division", to marketing, food & beverages and administration. During the school year, the students met up every Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning to plan the menus, create a logo, and divide up the tasks.

During the two weeks of management, they turn out to be very well organized. "Every morning we have a meeting with the chiefs of every department to coordinate the work and to sort out the daily problems," says Giada. "We help each other. Even if sometimes there are some arguments, it is a part of the experience too. If as a director I have to give work instructions to my best friend, in that moment I have to look at her as a colleague. We are young students, and we know that this is a short-term experience. But we are not playing, we are working, and we are training."

In the hotel, three girls dressed as nuns are rehearsing the show "Sister Act," which during the evening will entertain the other students who are customers on holiday. In the kitchen, young cooks are debating the best presentation for a vegetable strudel in pumpkin sauce that will be served during a gala dinner for local administrators and business executives. Although he's very proud of his students, Maurio Enea is keeping an eye on everything. But he will not interfere.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - Hotel La Betulla

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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