By Roy Aguba
(Editor: This article first appeared in the September 25, 2013 Issue of Hospitality News Magazine, now Hospitality News Philippines, with the original title “Eliminating the gap: a re-engineering guide”. Driven by serious curiosity about employment issues in the industry such as job mismatch and hiring practices, Aguba, a professor at De La Salle Lipa College at the time of this publication, conducted a research that tried to answer how his students can be better equipped for employment and subsequent issues. He shares the findings in three series, with this piece being his last.)
(Updated- 03/25/2015) In my previous two articles, I shared the top qualities being sought by the HR managers and the gaps in school-taught skills and industry-demand skills. To culminate these writings, I would personally share some insights on the program interventions to improve hospitality skills. The re-engineering of the curricula must be centered in the following five learning guiding principles:
1. Enhance students’ specific skills sets relating to people.
Due to proliferation of graduates with weak people skills, the curriculum must focus intensively on enhancing this skill set. This can be made viable though on-site training with practical examination to develop specific skills that require demonstration and intensive hands-on experience toward certification such as TESDA NCII and English Fluency.
Digestive case analyses, together with comprehensive course exercises, can also be used to determine the student’s ability to apply knowledge in appropriate situations on analytical, problem- , and sound decision-making. Competitive hands-on project in an output- and skill-based curriculum, through course application such as organizing events, can be maximized to enhance technical proficiency. This can further develop skills related to guest relations, teamwork, public relations, and leadership.
Advanced personality development training with values integration in course requirement can explicitly enhance students’ soft skills that are significant in forming positive attitude, and practicing impressive work and professional ethics.
2. Create measurable training plan and modules.
Comprehensive and appropriate training plans and modules serve as the guide for education. This is why lessening the gap between the quality of graduates and the demands of the workplace means consulting with industry practitioners in curriculum development and improvement must be considered. There are expected validated training courses, program, and curricula that are attuned to the industry trends, updates and requirements.
Practicum or on-the job training (OJT) duration must be be reviewed for a longer period of at least 600 hours with job rotation to strengthen the acquired hospitality important skills. In this period, the students are able to receive greater opportunities to enhance the skill sets through considerable experience in actual workforce.
3. Offer as many options for learning as possible.
Multiple modes to deliver instruction to students is another challenge among training institutions. Educational tours and seminars are the most accessible means used by an instructor aside from the common class lectures. Students are exposed to the industry and understand it, thus eliminating industry shock after graduation. Creating linkages and partnership with deluxe hotels in the Philippines and abroad can be considered by the academic institutions. These are feasible training venues to acquire skills related to some operations systems (e.g. reservations in the front office, point-of-sale system and the like) which were noted as identified skills gap.
School-based organizations and extra-curricular activities also provide students the opportunity to enhance skills of leadership, volunteerism, and cooperative team-building. A very surprising note given by the respondent in my study is the recommendation to consider community-based outreach program to further hone students’ positive attitude. This can allow students to take responsibility and define job as a personal commitment to success and deepened the graduates’ perception towards people and personal skills.
4. Provide a simulator or training site.
Simulator like school-run hotel laboratory with guests can provide a more extensive training similar to a real-life situation. Trainees’ decisions resulting in outcomes will mirror what would happen if the trainees were on the job. The essence is the students can acquire actual experience and can develop critical thinking ability through engaging in a more interactive approach of learning.
5. Employ competitive instructors and facilitators in response to the needs of the learners.
Higher education institutions can build credibility in handing down theories and principles related to hotel operations by employing qualified instructors and facilitators. Therefore, trainers and teachers must undergo further training, regular seminars, and immersion programs related to areas of their concentration. Practical knowledge pertaining to one skill or competency requirement of the trainers can strengthen the over-all learning experience of the students.
Curriculum is only a written course that serves as a guide to those who are involved but without proper execution and implementation, concerns on skills mismatching, incompetent graduates and unemployable human resource will remain a prevalent issue in the industry. The proposed plans in this article can guide schools to appropriately create set of courses which can little by little improve the quality of graduates we are producing.