Industry Update
Opinion Article11 June 2021

Is A University Education The Way To Go In The Hospitality Industry?

By Ariane Pogge, Final-Year Student at EHL

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I entered the hospitality industry by starting a three-year apprenticeship at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Düsseldorf, Germany. Before committing to a bachelor's program, I wanted to discover whether this was the right industry for me. The apprenticeship ultimately confirmed my intention to build a career in hospitality, aiming to advance quickly up the corporate ladder. Hence, I applied to EHL to help me achieve that goal.

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My journey through EHL and into the workforce

Now in my last year, I find myself in a sizeable group of soon-to-be graduates competing for opportunities in the hospitality job market. As I’ve begun to test the job market waters, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m prompted to reflect on the experiences and qualifications I acquired at EHL.

Entry-level positions such as Front-Desk Agent would've been perfectly suitable after the completion of my apprenticeship. However, despite the knowledge, transferrable skills, and practical experience gained in my two EHL internships, finding job offers matching my profile has been rather challenging.

I certainly don't regret the path I've chosen. It has allowed me to grow and to start a valuable professional network. Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling disillusioned. Indeed, universities must promote their programs and benefits to attract new candidates. However, the somewhat embellished value proposition of an almost guaranteed job offer upon graduation makes young high school graduates all too susceptible to overblown expectations, which could quickly end in a rude awakening.

But why is there a mismatch between our expectations from a bachelor's degree and employers' expectations towards us? It is no news that there has been a growing demand for university-level education. OECD stats show that the share of tertiary education attainment has risen from 38% to 52% over the past decade[1].

Do graduates match hospitality industry requirements today?

To prepare us for employment after graduation, universities are in regular exchange with the industry to continually optimise the curriculum. The fully-accredited Bachelor of Science comprises a range of subjects from Revenue to Hotel Asset Management. Not only do we learn to think strategically, but also to manage interactions in diverse teams. There shouldn't be a gap between our earned capabilities and the industry professionals' expectations. Considering all that, is the resulting graduate what is needed or wanted in the hospitality industry – an industry that has traditionally been rather slow to change and requires you to work up the ranks no matter what the academic qualification might be?

Graduate employability: it's in the mind-set?

The industry's readiness for bright university graduates, or maybe lack thereof, might be one side of the coin. However, I also want to reflect on us – the student body. The mismatch of expectations might originate from an overstated image of our capabilities, leading to inflated expectations for our initial employment opportunities. After all, we realize not everyone can be a top-level executive, but naturally, no one wants to believe they’re the one not cut out for the task.

Moreover, the university open days and brochures promising a fast track to success are too tempting to discard the power of a bachelor’s degree – even if vocational training could make someone happier than a corporate-type job.

Closing the hospitality skills gap

Where does that leave the future of hospitality education, and how can the gap between young talents’ and employers' needs be closed? The online learning platform typsy.com[2] might provide one possible alternative to just vocational training or a pure bachelor’s degree. It aims to “redefine what education really means" to "shrink the size of our degrees," making further education in the hospitality industry more accessible and commonplace. Giving people more options to learn and grow could make this field even more attractive. In the end, however, any qualification will only be worth as much as what we make of it, and success will certainly only come with the right work ethic.

This article is part of the Young Hôtelières Insights (YHI), an initiative spearheaded by HotelierGuild’s LeadingHôtelières Chapter and EHL Women in Leadership in collaboration with IUBH University of Applied Sciences and Institut Paul Bocuse. YHI aims to develop the professional visibility of our young female talent in a network of established hoteliers and hôtelières. The current article has been first published in HotelierGuild’s Forum of Dialogue Vol. V and LOOKBOOK Spring/Summer 2021.

References

[1] Leybold-Johnson, I. (2019). Vocational training or degree? Employment rates are similar. Retrieved from Swiss Info.

[2] Typsy.com: online learning platform specifically developed for the hospitality industry with tailored lessons for all levels of employment

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Ariane Pogge

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