SpotLight: Swiss Hotel Management Schools - Keeping pace with the growing hospitality industry...
By Sarah Muxlow ~ weekly column exclusive at 4Hoteliers.com
Wednesday, 2nd August 2006
According to the World Tourism Organization one new hospitality post is created every minute - qualified supervisory and management personnel with a willingness to gain international experience will literally be global stars. Opportunities are predicted to grow exponentially as the rapid increase in hospitality activities create new developments and new challenges.

By the year 2010 hospitality and tourism will be the largest global industry employing more than 328 million people. However, the demand for high calibre, well educated, intelligent, enthusiastic staff already outstrips supply….are hotel training schools meeting the needs?

Switzerland is in many contexts credited as the home of hospitality and hospitality training. Starting in the 19th century Swiss hotel schools developed specialised training programmes, focusing on preparing students for a career in hotel management. Today, the reputation of the Swiss  institutes as they reach further into the global market.

In 2004 4,498 students were trained within ASEH accredited Swiss training schools. Whilst institutes vary in style, course content and size, they have several common points. Unlike other universities or colleges of further education, they specialise purely in training the next generation of hospitality professionals and primarily managers.

Students are recruited worldwide. They spend several months training in school, where the language of tuition is English, and then complete a minimum 5 month internship for each year studied. Most aim to spend their time in 4/5 star establishments, learning and using skills that will help them become supervisors and managers, one day.

Effort is made by hotel schools to benchmark against industry needs and standards as well as setting their own academic requirements and curricular. Courses are balanced with practical and theory. In-house restaurants and bars, banqueting functions and simulation workshops give the opportunity for real practice.

Living within the heart of Europe students are perfectly located for visiting wine caves, exposure to a full range of restaurant styles and cuisines as well as having the opportunity to use and learn languages.

Often students are living within the schools themselves. They are studying in a multicultural environment and experiencing the importance of tolerance, diversity and ethics as well as professionalism and business management.

Different countries have different expectations of their graduates. China, for example, is putting in place systems to manage bookings and customer service. Their expectations of graduates isn't the same as central Europe or the US, China is happy that students are speaking English and have a good ability to communicate with guests and improve customer service. Further developed sectors of the hotel industry are focused on further developing competitive brand loyalty and revamping in-house bars and restaurants to be cutting edge outlets.

Given that hotel recruiters are looking at qualifications, particularly for their fast track management training courses, MBA's, degrees and diplomas are of interest. In addition to the core subjects of F&B, Banqueting, wine & Spirits, cost control, accounting, management, housekeeping, front office and human resources, languages and communication skills, marketing and sales ability are sought.

In recruitment of staff there is the question of how much of a great GM is experience, personality, skill or Knowledge. The current generation of Hotel Managers have mixed backgrounds of qualifications and degrees and learnt-on-the-job experience and skill. The next generation of managers whilst entering a highly competitive and more sophisticated industry, still need to have a willingness to learn on-the-job and be people focused as well as business minded.

The first day within a hotel is the start of a life time of learning. Ambition has to be coupled with humility; everyone picks up a plate and wipes a table. An attitude of willingness to learn, take tasks on unguided, and be hands-on, is all part of the job. Starting salaries for graduates whilst are improving are not the same as other fields of work. Whilst degrees lay out good foundations, they need to be practical. The job of GM is not an academic one.

Whilst the theory and course content, level of education and number of graduates completing courses looks promising, the main criticisms of hospitality schools by leading hotel brands is the ‘reality' element of training programmes. Subject content has to have a eye on current practice as well as timeless principals and future developments. It is appreciated that techniques and first level confidence, is learnt at a pace that allows for accuracy within school. Speed then comes with the practice of serving 100 guests a sitting, day after day. In this instance, the industry needs students that are prepared and able to hit the floor running.

Students that gain good academic grades on paper aren't necessarily or automatically great people managers. They still have to have a natural ability and willingness to keep learning how to manage themselves day-in-day-out and manage staff and guests.

SpotLight is the weekly column exclusively written for 4Hoteliers.com by Sarah Muxlow, it is highlighting the challenges and issues which the global hospitality is facing today.

Sarah is writing for hotel and restaurant owners, hotel chain managers, producers/growers/sellers of food & beverage, restaurant associations, governing bodies and hotel schools. She is looking at the problems they face...competition, trends of branding, staff shortages, unskilled staff, turning out students who are looking for good in-house management training schemes with hotel chains, what makes a good quality training course at a hotel school and more... 

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