Dual Education at Reserva Conchal: Learning, Growing and Giving Back

Dual Education at Reserva Conchal: Learning, Growing and Giving Back

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Dual Education at Reserva Conchal: Learning, Growing and Giving Back.  Joseph is the oldest of five children who grew up in a drug- and crime-ridden area of San José. At age 13 Joseph experienced a life-changing event that caused him to realize he needed to get out of that place. He moved to Guanacaste to live with an aunt and turn his life around.

Today, working as a lead bartender — or captain as they call it internally — at Reserva Conchal Beach Club, Joseph is living in a thriving community full of supportive friends and family. With the career preparation skills he acquired through Reserva Conchal’s Dual Education program, he has learned that hard work reaps its rewards with promotions and a better life.

Because of the Dual Education program and his work at Reserva Conchal, Joseph has been able to bring his mom and youngest brother to Guanacaste and take care of them.


Offered in conjunction with Costa Rica’s National Apprenticeship Institute (Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje or INA), the Dual Education program provides hands-on training as professional chefs or as waiter-bartenders at the Westin Resort, the W Costa Rica and Reserva Conchal, as well as post-graduation employment opportunities. The one-year program offers added support for a healthy and well-balanced life by transporting and feeding the students physically, emotionally and socially.

More than 30 of the original 40 enrolled
students will complete the program,
with a graduation ceremony like no other.


Reserva Conchal’s innovative partnership with INA reflects a need for companies to get out of their comfort zones in helping communities build a more skilled labor force, in turn enhancing the quality of life for all. The goal is to lift up local communities by giving citizens hirable skills that allow for future retention and training, thus creating a circular economy.

Student success stories

A previous Howler overview, in the September/October 2018 issue, emphasized the Dual Education program’s extensive scope, in terms of both curriculum and enrollment uptake. But its greatest measure of success may be the stories of transformation in the lives of students like Joseph. When INA Instructor Jairo Varela talks about his students, his eyes light up. Passion and joy illuminate his descriptions of the leaps and bounds students must overcome when attending the program. He has known some who were once practically living on the streets, without dependable access to meals; now they are fully employed, living in safe housing and providing meals for themselves and their families.

When asked what he finds most rewarding about his work with students in the program, Varela said, “To see them develop socially, have confidence, to feel empowered to do something … they mature so quickly, but into professionals ready to work.”


utspoken, observant student who wants to open up her own restaurant. She travels over 70 kilometers each way to Reserva Conchal for her training. Depending on the day, she wakes at 4 a.m., walks to the main street in her town and takes a cab to Filadelfia. There, the Dual Education bus picks her up for delivery to the Westin Hotel. This is not a program for the weary.

When asked about their hardest learning challenge — from recipe memorization and knife techniques to laws and regulations … sometimes even basic manners and etiquette — the classmates resoundingly said, “ENGLISH!” The training incorporates four weeks of intensive English and this is where most students drop out. Even then, more than 30 of the original 40 enrolled students will complete the program, with a graduation ceremony like no other.

On that special occasion, you can feel the excitement, pride and unity of the group. Family members fill the room with flowers and signs, dressed in their best, so obviously proud that their sons, daughters, wives, cousins, mothers or fathers are finishing such a rigorous program. But that is not where this story ends.

Graduation just the beginning

Approximately 90 percent of these graduates are then hired by the Westin or W resorts, securing consistent employment with the ability to continue growing and developing their skill set. Jairo regards this as a cornerstone of the Dual Education program that needs to be shared with other companies.

“Reserva Conchal provides a safe social and educational base for the program; the students [and their families and communities] thrive because of this.”

The Dual Education program offers so much more than workable skills in a technical environment. It’s all about the life skills that will enable students to have a better future, learn something new every day, provide support for their friends and family and give back to their community.

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