Industry Update
Opinion Article16 July 2021

Hospitality Education Can Help Solve the Industry’s Workforce Crisis

By Yong Shen, CEO of Swiss Education Group (SEG)

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No business sector was hit harder by the pandemic than hospitality. And none has experienced such a meteoric rebound. It’s a testament to how vital travel and the hospitality industry are to our lives and relationships. Now the new challenge is how to staff up to meet traveler demand without sacrificing the guest experience.

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Leisure and hospitality jobs have been rebounding since April in the U.S. May’s jobs report showed 5.5 million hospitality and leisure jobs returning since the pandemic. With New York State and California now reopen as of June, hospitality jobs are being created much faster than they can be filled. It’s like we’re going from one crisis to another.

While much commentary has focused on the factors affecting lower-rung job vacancies, higher up the hospitality career ladder, jobs have also been challenging to fill.

Well-trained hospitality professionals possess some of the most in-demand skill sets across all industries. Over the past year, many have been recruited to other sectors. They’re now providing resort-style experiences in luxury continuing care retirement communities or managing relationships and assets for high-net-worth individuals. There are many positions needing the same talents as those called upon to fill a five-star luxury resort, deliver VIP guest experiences, or feed groups from 40 to 400.

Compared to last year, the situation has changed dramatically. Whereas a year ago our students were struggling to find internships that were few and far between in the hospitality sector, they have the luxury of choosing this year. We are receiving calls from our business and industry partners who have a huge appetite to find talent.

In addition to leadership and entrepreneurial skills, hospitality business educations emphasize soft skills, which are beneficial even in the most technical careers like software engineering.

A landmark report came out of Google in 2013. The global technology giant surveyed the skills most associated with career success among its engineers. Google found that the eight most important qualities were classic soft skills, not technical skills. Amazing coding or data analysis abilities were not as crucial as strong communications and listening, emotional intelligence, empathy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, among others.

The transferable skills we teach in our schools are very focused on customer and human interfaces which are highly valued.

This is one of the reasons that our Hotel Institute Montreux offers a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a Swiss hospitality angle. The program is delivered in partnership with Northwood University, a private university in Midland, Michigan. Students must choose one of five industry-endorsed specializations, including luxury brand management, financial analysis and wealth management, human capital and development, senior living industry, and franchise business management. These specializations have a very natural link to hospitality and a focus on the customer and soft skills that only hospitality studies can bring.

The soaring demand for highly trained hospitality management graduates has created a sense of urgency for our team of educators across our alliance of four top-ranked schools. We are Switzerland’s largest private educator, with nearly 40 years of experience in hospitality, business, and culinary education and 6,000 students.

To meet the moment in the U.S. and to prepare for the wave of workforce hiring sweeping across the rest of the world, our focus remains on leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

We already offer an accelerated three-year degree program, which helps our students and the industry find and get talent into positions faster. We’re working closely with industry recruiters and promoting openings to our North American alumni network.

Our emphasis on hands-on, real-world experience, requiring at least two internships in all of our undergraduate degree programs, ensures that our graduates can also contribute immediately from the moment they’re hired. While many of our internships have been at Swiss hospitality operations, we can work with employers in North America to place students who are eager for international experiences.

Our student body is international, drawn from over 100 countries with a majority beyond proficient in English, which is our language of instruction.

As a global leader providing hospitality business educations to thousands of eager and qualified students every year, the urgency my colleagues and I feel in 2021 to produce the next generation of hospitality and culinary leaders has never been higher. For you, as employers and recruiters, please know that the world’s hospitality educators have your backs. We are ready, willing, and available to collaborate with you to help meet this moment.

Yong Shen

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