Round Table: Education & Training
An academic director, a lecturer and a student discuss the value of continuing education for career advancement, how to get around the obstacles that often stand in the way of those wanting to further their education
There are a lot of routes to getting ahead in hospitality and tourism. Attaining relevant experience is undoubtedly important as is putting in the hard work needed. But what about furthering a career when a person is already working in the hospitality industry? Can continuing education help those in the hospitality and tourism sectors to climb the career ladder to management roles more quickly? Hotelier Middle East asks Olivia Turner, acting academic director, Dubai College of Tourism (DCT), Dr. Chris Dutt, senior Lecturer at Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM), and DCT student Salima Alaoui to find out more.
Hotelier (H): How important is it for new entrants in the hospitality industry to have educational backing?
Olivia Turner (OT): During our entry assessment we are looking for communication ability and motivation. These are essential elements for the tourism, hospitality, retail and events sectors. Our goal is then to teach the technical skills required to perform a functional role within the industry.
Dr. Chris Dutt (CD): For those working professionals who are changing industries and entering hospitality for the first time, having an understanding and a foundation in a hospitality-focused subject(s) can expedite their transition into their new career. This will go some way in alleviating gaps in knowledge for some of the industry-specific functions, such as revenue management. Over the longer term, an education in hospitality management will help with the ‘bigger-picture’ perspective, increase speed and efficiency, plus alleviate staff attrition rates. If individuals have a greater understanding of hospitality concepts before they start, then they will grasp the operational and managerial aspects of their roles much faster. Otherwise, a hospitality-focused education is particularly helpful for professional growth while working within the industry. By providing students with the relevant knowledge and the critical and analytic thinking skills, it helps to develop the next generation of management. These managers will have the skills and abilities to develop their businesses in an ever changing and growing world.
H: How important has studying been in terms of your career?
SA: I’m studying tourism at the Dubai College of Tourism to gain more knowledge and experience about the travel industry.
Salima Alaoui (SA): I’m studying tourism at Dubai College of Tourism in order to gain more knowledge and experience about the travel industry. I must study in order to understand how things work in the travel industry, because without studying I wouldn’t understand what the travel sector is all about.
H: Once in a hotel role, what are your thoughts on continuing education in terms of professional development?
SA: Staying on trends in Dubai, and trends in the industry (tourism or hospitality) like programme Dubai Way offered by my college, which can help you gain more knowledge about the hotel industry and customer services.
H: Do think it is necessary for those already working in the hotel sector to continue their education while already working in a hospitality-related position?
OT: At Dubai College of Tourism we believe it is essential. Both basic information and knowledge training and on-going professional development. The rapid change in technology, distribution, equipment and management tools means everyone should stay on top of their professional development.
CD: Continual learning is always an asset at any stage in one’s career. Even if the information being delivered is already familiar, its method of delivery or critical review of the information, could open the door to new ideas and perspectives. This is especially so at a postgraduate level for those who have been working in the hotel industry for a number of years. While all students have varying course interests and career aspirations, having a broad education across hospitality theory and applied concepts will lead to some great ideas. Also being able to articulate different perspectives on existing practices can add value to the individual and business alike.
H: The lack of time is an important factor for those working in hospitality yet wishing to pursue further education. What advice would you offer such people?
OT: Carving out time to invest in your own knowledge should be a personal principle. You can always find time to research, study and keep yourself well-informed. Plan that time into your diary as an essential ‘must-do’ not a ‘nice to do’.
CD: A plethora of online or blended learning courses exist which, to varying degrees, place the onus of learning and time management in the student’s hands. Students are able to fit learning around busy professional and personal lives. As hospitality is centred on people and guests, many students prefer the networking and connections gained whilst studying in a classroom environment.
Several institutions also offer degrees which are structured around the nature of the hospitality industry; block courses in evenings two or three days a week. These are ideal options for those who are working, would like to learn more, but prefer the more face-to-face approach to education. The future is moving towards more customised learning through online platforms and apps which can provide better activities and engagement when is most convenient for students.
Regardless of the approach adopted, it will take time and energy. Supervisors and managers should be aware of the commitment that is needed, but still encourage and support their staff to undertake such studies. The work students do towards their studies can directly and immediately help them in the workplace, so the implementation of programmes to help students bring their education into the work environment would be of benefit to both the student and the business. Many courses are setting assessments which require students to solve a real-life work related challenge or devise a new concept with the business benefitting from the result. This raises a question - could hotel companies offer their employees a means to apply their education to better their work?
H: Should financial ability be seen as an obstacle standing in the way of those wishing to study?
OT: At Dubai College of Tourism, we believe it should not. Our courses are deliberately priced to be accessible. We also believe that employers have a responsibility to ensure that their teams are as knowledgeable and as resourceful as possible. That’s why we provide the online training courses such as Dubai Way, Inclusive Service, Chinese Traveller Standards and Sustainable Tourism.
CD: There should not be any obstacle to an individual wishing to study, least of all finances. Education is designed to help people better themselves, their company, and their society. Education providers needs to concentrate on allowing cost-effective access to learning, offer flexibility with learning delivery and ensure they offer the highest level of value. Companies in-turn should not reduce budget or limit the ability for employees to further their education. Both education providers and companies can devise ways of reducing the financial impact on the learner though sponsorship or scholarship.
H: What advice would you offer to somebody working in the hotel sector who sees time and financial commitment as obstacles to enrolling on a course?
SA: I would recommend hotel HR managers register their employees in the DCT Dubai Way Programme as it trains you to know more about hospitality sector. Dubai Way also has other programmes such as Sustainable Tourism and Chinese Traveler Standards which helps you communicate better with the customers. However if someone has more time they can also consider enrolling at Dubai College of Tourism in a hospitality or tourism programme.