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How hospitality education can help create leaders today for tomorrow’s industries

Hospitality education aims to shape graduates that are passionate, proficient, and ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges head-on.

Today, more than ever, education – or, more importantly, what we define as good education – is one of the most important topics in our society. It’s a topic we go back to time and time again as we choose a future to pursue, tirelessly inspect lists of hundreds, if not thousands, of institutes, repeating the same process again when the time comes for our children, before finally finding one that satiates our pursuit of what we believe is a “good education”.

So, what exactly are the parameters that we choose to measure an education with? When dealing with something as intangible as education, every item on the list of ingredients is crucial to ensure the recipe for a successful future goes according to plan.

Hospitality education, while still decidedly a niche pursuit, aims to do exactly that – to combine a winning list of components that help shape graduates that are passionate, proficient, and ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges head-on.

Flexible for an evolving future

Life after hospitality education is much more than just hotels. While the uninitiated are quick to think that graduates spend their entire careers in hotels the second their graduation gowns are off, graduates actually have an entire world of opportunity open to them.

Hospitality graduates are actually some of the most sought after in today’s rapidly shifting landscape. Many graduates do indeed pursue a career in hotels and resorts, but others excel in banking and financial services, private equity, luxury and retail, event management, and entrepreneurship to name a few.

So how does such a seemingly niche education successfully prepare students for some of the most exciting industries across the globe? The truth is that the education doesn’t aim to equip students with extensive, expert knowledge regarding these industries. What it does intend to do, however, is empower students with the personal and fundamental life skills needed to flourish and succeed in almost any professional environment.

Armed with a strong sense of leadership, impeccable communication skills, critical thinking, comfort working in a team, and an entrepreneurial drive, hospitality management graduates possess a toolkit that is invaluable for tomorrow’s world.

The big issue

While hospitality education offers the potential for immense professional opportunities for today’s youth, there are several underlying factors in the education scape that are still holding it back from the limelight it deserves.

A study by Aspiring Minds in 2014 (Aspiring Minds National Employability Report, Hotel Management Graduates – 2014) revealed that less than 25 percent of the approximately 15,000-18,000 graduates leaving hospitality institutes across the country are actually industry ready.

The root of the issues within today’s industry and the solutions of tomorrow can be tied within education. With these statistics, it becomes clear that drastic changes within the curricula and the way the learning process is perceived and executed have to be made. With the introduction of courses that have been specifically designed with the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s landscape in mind – from hospitality management to culinary arts – an entire ecosystem of students can be given the right tools they need to excel professionally within the industry or to pursue their own business ventures.

A successful hospitality education isn’t just about preparing for today- it’s about endowing students with the critical thinking, flexibility, and entrepreneurial spirit they need to flourish in today’s professional landscape while successfully conquering the challenges of tomorrow.

It’s impossible to expect an updated curriculum if there is a lack of research and innovation. And, unfortunately, hospitality education is a sphere where there is a distinct lack of exploring trends and pursuing patterns within India. Without research, programmes fail to meet the needs of the industry and to include the emerging patterns of our rapidly evolving world, leaving graduates underprepared and unequipped for the field.

Hospitality and travel and tourism are, without a doubt, some of the most fast-paced and constantly evolving fields today.

Fuelled by technology and strongly influenced by new customer expectations and behaviours derived by the spread of social media and the way we share our lives with each other, capturing an accurate snapshot of hospitality and its expected challenges is near impossible.

Instead of placing all focus on written, static material, successful future leaders are prepared by learning from the experience and direction of the ones of today. Leading institutes often employ industry experts from across the globe, both former and current, as permanent or visiting faculty. This approach not only helps students understand patterns and trends from industry experts that have encountered them before themselves and introduces them to global trends, it provides them with invaluable networking and mentorship opportunities that can play a big part in their future outside of graduation.

Building a stronger connect

Another crucial step in preparing leaders for tomorrow’s industries is to introduce students to the intricacies and inner workings of hospitality as early as possible. This approach isn’t just for the industry’s benefit – it’s also to ensure that the students themselves can see a future within their chosen field.

Image : shutterstock

Hospitality requires flexibility, quick thinking and strong problem-solving to flourish in this colourful and fast-paced landscape – a rigid skillset or expectation of predictable routine are two things that won’t fly very far in this world. By providing students with an insider’s perspective into the workings of the industry, they’re given the opportunity to deepen their understanding of what they’ve learned in the classroom, as well as an important headstart above other graduates whose first foray into professional life only happens post-graduation.

Following four years of hospitality management, students will have undergone two internships spanning six months each – totalling a quarter of their entire education spent on actual hands-on, professional experience. During this time, they will have gained practical expertise, developed a significant understanding of their chosen field, understood a possible future professional path and have built up a strong network of contacts that can benefit them throughout their entire careers.

A brighter future for graduates

Increasing globalisation and the changing way we live our lives are helping drive the growth of travel, tourism, and hospitality to bigger heights than ever before. Combined with a performance that’s greater than that of the global economy itself, the sector is set to offer incredible opportunities for those who are willing to take them.

To unlock the full potential of both the sector and India’s talent pool, it is pertinent to reimagine the way hospitality education is constructed and delivered. It is essential to work closer with the industry on a holistic level – and keep abreast of trends and patterns through research and collaboration, carefully interweaving both into the hospitality curriculum.

This collaboration will not only help enhance the learning experience for students and help prepare them for a world after graduation, it will streamline the way internships are undertaken and give students the freedom to discover career opportunities first-hand within the comfort of their education.

By reimagining the way hospitality education is delivered and experienced, the industry stands to benefit from an influx of human capital that is passionate, dedicated and equipped to tackle challenges head-on. Braced with a new generation that is capable, innovative and entrepreneurial, the potential for growth within the hospitality and its allied industries is incredible.

But to reimagine a bigger, brighter and better tomorrow for the sector, we’re going to have to reimagine hospitality education today.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.) 

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