Do you think it’s important for new entrants in the hospitality industry to have educational backing, i.e. a degree in a hospitality-focused subject? Why/why not?

Michael Newnham, Associate Dean, Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management: It is still possible to build a career in hospitality without a bachelor degree with the right personality attributes and work opportunities. Increasingly though, employers are being more selective and use a degree as an indication of competence: a degree signals to employers that students have learnt about and worked in the industry (through internships) and have the capability to contribute, learn and grow, often more rapidly than those without a degree. A Bachelor degree provides students with knowledge, skills and abilities in most aspects of hospitality operations, on which they can build when they start working fulltime. Graduates understand the inter-relationship and interdependencies between various functional areas. They also learn how to analyse and research workplace issues, solve problems, make decisions, and work in teams.

Sneha Rahul, Human Resources & Training Manager, Park Inn By Radisson Dubai Motor City: I started my career in the industry six years earlier, and within this period the profiles that we look for while hiring have undergone dynamic changes. As a recruiter, I always prefer to have candidates who are genuinely interested in the industry and not someone who may end up with us by chance. While recruiting, we not only look at candidates who can fill available positions, but also those who can grow with the company to become our future leaders. The succession planning starts from day one in the recruitment process. So we need candidates to know what they are looking forward to. A related degree helps candidates add a winning point to their profile. Candidates will have realistic expectations about the part that they may have to play in the team as most universities now focus on a minimum of six months experiential learning through internships, which makes it easier for them to adapt.

Remmie de Graaf, General Manager, Hilton Garden Inn Ras Al Khaimah: I personally believe it is vital for new entrants into the hospitality industry to have some educational background in hospitality. Speaking from personal experience, I am a hotel school graduate too, and my studies at the Hotel Management College of Maastricht certainly provided me with a strong foundation to commence my career. Through my studies I have also managed to gain some international work experience. For instance, as part of my traineeship, I worked in Tianjin, China and Antwerp, Belgium. It was also in college that I started building my network within the hospitality industry. My time at a hotel management college indeed helped me secure a foothold in the industry.

Andrew Vieira, Director Of F&B, Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay: I definitely think it is important for newcomers in the current day, to have an educational background in the hospitality industry. The focus was more on hands-on experience at the time when I was a new entrant, but as time and technology have progressed, it has become important to have a solid backing of education and knowledge that you don’t get from operations alone.

Pamini Hemaprabha, Executive Housekeeper, Bahi Ajman Palace Hotel: It’s  important to have beginners come from hotel management institutes as it will give them a better idea of what they have studied and how far they can see themselves in the industry. Having said this, there are areas of concern for departments like housekeeping and other back-of-house areas where the contribution of hotel management graduates are minimum. Becoming a great hotelier isn’t solely dependent on the fact of having a hotel management degree, I believe it’s more personality and leadership skills that takes people forward in this industry. We have a great many examples of successful hoteliers who do not possess a hotel management degree and yet are successful. Hotel management is a course that needs to be promoted as a platform for younger generation to consider their career in this field.

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