Breaking the mould

Breaking the mould

Equipping young people with the skills for success

Peter Slade, Head of School, Montreux International School

The hospitality industry has, arguably, been hit harder than most other industries by the global pandemic and, while there were signs of recovery as restaurants, bars and hotels opened back up over the summer months, across Europe occupancy rates dipped again in September to under 40 percent.

While the immediate future is uncertain, there is no question that the industry will eventually recover, albeit in an evolved form and, despite the disruption and loss of livelihoods – which, of course, should not be downplayed - with every crisis, opportunities emerge and this one is no exception. 

There are two immediate opportunities I see, the first comes from the fact that the skills that are central to successful hospitality are universally relevant and highly valued across all industry sectors.  Commonly, but mistakenly, known as ‘soft skills’, these are the skills that all industries have been crying out for, for years; they are, in fact, the ‘hard-core skills’ that drive all good businesses and, in particular, they are highly valued within all service industries. This means that, for anyone in the hospitality industry now looking to change career path, either willingly or through need created by the pandemic, much of their experience will be highly marketable to employers in other sectors as diverse as engineering and healthcare.

Research from The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the UK shows that nine out of 10 employees will need to reskill by 2030, a statistic that I’m sure is mirrored across Europe and the world. A CBI spokesperson said: “As Covid-19 accelerates changes to the world of work, the UK should use this momentum to drive a national reskilling effort to futureproof livelihoods and power UK competitiveness. The changing shape of the labour market means that the workforce in 2030 will need to spend far more time on ‘technological skills’ and ‘social and emotional skills’, where human agency and decision making will be crucial to success”.

Similarly, for young people about to embark on their career, the acquisition of transferable skills, including collaboration, communication, negotiation, presentation, will go a long way in helping them to establish themselves as valuable team players with any new employers, or as young entrepreneurs, from the outset. 

Transferable skills are taught through hospitality qualifications at colleges and universities across the globe but here there is an inherent problem; because they are largely taught by ex-hospitality professionals, having left the industry in the 80s and 90s, the way that they are taught is too often old-school and formulaic. There is no point in requiring students to memorise facts when this information, and much more, can be accessed so readily via their smart device or at the click of a mouse. Instead, we need to be teaching the application and analysis of that information. Students emerging today from college and university with hospitality qualifications have a text-book perspective and approach which is light-years behind the innovative and creative modus operandi they could and should have. So, we need to see a paradigm shift in hospitality education and, as our industry begins to repair and reimagine itself for the new normal, now is the time for that shift to take place.

The other opportunity that’s emerging from this crisis is within the innovation and harnessing of technology to advance change within the hospitality sector. Whether it’s restaurants partnering with grocery retailers to offer meal kits or optimising their online offering to include remote ordering and delivery, it is technology that is enabling the rate of change and the new jobs that are now being created present many exciting career opportunities that hadn’t previously been imagined.

But here there is a case of chicken and egg – to be able to create technology that is genuinely useful, relevant and moves the industry forward, hospitality education combined with hands-on work-place experience is required, as well as the ability to adapt to progressive technology.   

There’s no short-cut to this but there is a new fast-track hybrid education through VIE Education which blends digital and physical learning and combines business and hospitality education with hands-on industry experience – this breaks the mould.

It’s not just the content of the education that’s important, it is also the way that it is delivered, which needs to mirror and demonstrate the diverse skills it is aiming to promote in its students. So, at VIE Education’s inaugural school, Montreux International School, which is dedicated to delivering a ground-breaking life-ready and business-based education, our teachers will employ their hospitality skills, learned over many years in industry, to deliver an individualised education and model the behaviours and skills that our students will learn to excel at.