Can we match up to Europe?

16 November 2006
Can we match up to Europe?

Like many other industries, professionals in the hospitality sector are often torn between the question of experience or education.

For many years, we have seen the influx of skilled European hospitality labour; through its apprenticeships scheme, Germany seems to have found a successful balance between the practical aspects of the industry and the theoretical business skills; as have Switzerland, with its world-renowned hotel schools, and more recently the Netherlands, with the Hague Hotelschool.

With our European counterparts seeming to have succeeded where we have previously failed, and in an industry where our young professionals need to be equipped with the skills to compete in an expanding labour market, have New Labour's foundation degree programmes, driven by Tony Blair's agenda of "education, education, education", finally allowed hospitality students to compete within the international market?

I believe so. The foundation degree succeeds where the HND and other former qualifications have not, providing a balance between the practical skills of working within the industry and the theory involved in strategic management.

No longer do we see degree students learning how to set a table; instead students are being taught a more generic syllabus of business-style management such as principles and functions of human resources management. The practical learning, specific to each business, is learnt while at work, developed and assisted through course modules.

Another major transformation has been to abandon the block work placement, usually of a few months, but instead to encourage reflection from real incidents and events through ongoing employment.

The hope is that we will successfully equip our graduates with the all-important skills and experience that employers desire; creating self-aware, confident young managers who are adequately prepared to succeed in senior positions across the industry.

It remains to be seen if we can match the high standards set by our European friends.

James Thain Hacon
FdA student, City College Norwich, and commis waiter,Congham Hall Country House Hotel

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