Cover Story

Active Approach To Learning

Working towards strengthening the link between tourism and hospitality industries for both professionals and students, Carol Pillai, head, School of Tourism and Hospitality, Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), talks about the USP of the institute’s courses and the career prospects

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Carol Pillai

One of Singapore’s oldest not-for-profit learning institutes, Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), inducted its first batch of diploma students for The School of Tourism and Hospitality in August 2006 and its bachelor degree students two months later. Talking about the school, Carol Pillai, head, School of Tourism and Hospitality, MDIS states, “We have partnered with various universities in Australia and the United Kingdom to train and educate more than 5,000 students from over 20 countries and develop individuals while preparing them to face the various challenges of the tourism and hospitality industry.” The School of Tourism and Hospitality has partnered with Southern Cross University (SCU), Australia and the University of Sunderland, UK for its five Bachelors’ and Masters’ degree programmes. The MSc in Tourism and Hospitality course awarded by the University of Sunderland facilitates a combination of real-world experiences and critical reflection through fieldwork and classroom-based activities. Pillai believes that by applying a social scientific approach to both tourism and hospitality studies through a focus on the contexts of globalisation, commercialisation and consumption, they will be able to create better linkages between the travel, tourism and hospitality industries in relation to organisation and management, as well as provide satisfactory experiences to consumers. Elaborating on the MSc in Tourism and Hospitality course, she states, “The programme is best suited for professionals and students who are willing to notch up their career in order to switch to international hotel chains, including those who plan to switch over to teaching.” The other master’s programme, Master of International Tourism and Hotel Management awarded through SCU, is designed for students with no previous industry work experience but who wish to gain a higher qualification in the field of tourism and hospitality studies.

Encouraging an active approach to learning, Pillai believes the curriculum will inspire and enhance the capacity of students to be effective leaders of future. “Our curriculum is a fine blend of both theoretical and practical knowledge. All of our programmes combine academic rigour with practical, vocational, and transferable skills while focusing on professional study, identity and employability of our graduates.” she adds. The Bachelor of Business in International Hospitality Management by SCU, provides students business and hospitality management skills to enable them to pursue a career as an industry leader at a national or an international level, while the BSc (Honours) in International Tourism and Hospitality Management (Top-Up) awarded by the University of Sunderland and the Bachelor of Business in Convention and Event Management by SCU positions graduates at the centre of the fast growing business events industry, ensuring that they acquire the skills and knowledge required to pursue a career in management, planning and marketing of corporate events, conventions and meetings, festivals and special events.

MDIS also offers its own diplomas as direct entry to the bachelors’ programmes. For instance, the Diploma in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Management is for individuals aspiring to begin a career in the field of travel, tourism and hospitality management or any one of the ancillary service industries. The Advanced Diploma in Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management provides a sound knowledge base of concepts and skills in tourism and hospitality with a special focus on creative and flexible work environment.

World-class infrastructure

MDIS is one of the few institutes in Singapore with its own campus and hostel. “The campus offers well-equipped classrooms, science, engineering and computer laboratories, a hospitality training centre, TV and radio studios, a fashion studio and sports facilities such as a gymnasium and badminton courts, while the hostel can accommodate some 1,700 students and has eco-friendly features and integrated facilities, so that students can live, learn and play in an interactive and conducive environment,” mentions Pillai.

The MDIS Career Assistance Unit hosts job placement services exclusively for MDIS members and students from its partner organisations. “We also collaborate with employers to offer internship programmes and organise industry recruitment talks, providing students with opportunities in the corporate world whilst studying. A one-stop resume submission service and a career counselling service, teamed with useful career networks and relevant articles, are also available to students to help them in their career search,” she points out.

Future trend

With the increasing role of technology, Pillai believes that guests and clients are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and are demanding exceptional service with speed and precision. “They expect quicker bookings, express check-ins, speedy Wi-Fi connectivity and quick responses to customer service requests. In order to cater to these requests, the industry needs to be equipped appropriately as these guests are quick to post feedback on social platforms,” she suggests adding that the tourism and hospitality industry also needs to adopt advanced technology and have an innovative approach towards marketing and servicing, including online media.

Talking about the lack of skilled and trained manpower in the tourism and hospitality sector, Pillai states, “Employment forecasts have indicated that these industries are lacking skilled and qualified labour and will continue unless addressed appropriately.” She believes that in order to overcome this gap, the industry must come together to promote and train professionals by collaborating with established educational institutes like MDIS.

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