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Hospitality education: The changing paradigms

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Hospitality education in India is going through a phase of evolution driven by the needs of a dynamic industry. While a lot still needs to be done to bring about changes that can go a long way in strengthening the human resource requirements of the industry, the many positive initiatives are making a difference. By Sudipta Dev

Hospitality education in India has always been a subject of much debate, mostly the not so positive kind. The dynamic needs of the times has albeit brought about a change – all stakeholders today believe that for the Indian hospitality industry to achieve its true potential just market growth is not enough, the industry needs high potential human resources for achieving its targeted success. Developing employable talent for the industry has always been a challenge, but there are a few hotel schools that have sought to put innovative practices in place to ensure the same. It has not been an easy task of course, the constraints have been many, but in seeking to do things differently they have set high benchmarks among the mushrooming colleges that have curriculum with scant requirements for the industry. The industry has also been proactive in its support to many hotel schools to ensure that the young graduates get enough industry exposure even before they leave the portals of their institution.

Parvadhavardhini
Gopalakrishnan

The hospitality education system in India is getting more and more competitive and also evolving at a fast pace. “There are several positive changes both in the industry and in the academia. Industry engagement with the colleges has increased manifold and there is willingness to accept students into their operations for training and induction with flexible duration,” says Prof. Parvadhavardhini Gopalakrishnan, principal, Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (WGSHA), Manipal University. She points out that many hotel chains in India are spending a great deal of time and money in monitoring the graduate trainees through a dedicated team of managers. This apart, the quality assurance role of regulatory bodies, namely the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Board of Accreditation (NBA) has added value to the hospitality management education system in India. “They have enforced not only processes for curriculum reforms but also in areas of curriculum design, 360 degree feedback mechanisms, academic flexibility, choice based credit systems and many more on-going initiatives,” she adds.

Satish Jayaram

Satish Jayaram, principal, IHM-Aurangabad agrees that positive developments are already in motion as observed from the efforts of the All India Board for Hospitality and Tourism Management under the AICTE of MHRD. “Extensive benchmarking exercises with international models, duly customised to our ground realities, in association with industry partners, infrastructure developers and knowledge management experts will provide the much required breakthrough. There is a very professional approach to this initiative being executed by major chains who are a part of the Board. Each of these major players are committed to skill development initiatives, corporate social responsibility, competence development models as well as future visioning and innovation exercises. At IHM-A all these are already in motion, in fact I see school going youngsters highly clued on about hospitality with the tremendous media exposure from culinary programmes,” states Jayaram, not forgetting to add that in the country most prominent factor advantage is the naturally infused hospitality which is part of every Indian’s DNA. “We are by nature warm and hospitable people and will fit into hospitality careers without much ado. We are vested with the responsibility to take hospitality education to the masses and classes alike through customised models to enhance this positivity,” he asserts.

As a leading institution for hospitality education at IHM-Aurangabad course modules and curriculum are internationally benchmarked. “Our academic structure and schedules are customised to industry requirement, we have a world-class infrastructure and a highly interactive technologically engaging knowledge environment,” says Jayaram. The institute’s social change initiatives such as interfaces with NGOs like Pratham, Industrial Training Institutes in PPP mode as well as multi stage courses like a certificate, diploma, degree, honours and masters provide a wide range of solutions custom suited to diverse segments. “We recently implemented a 48 week internship in the final year of our undergraduate course which allows industry to actually see an individual performing within operations before making a job offer rather than making the hiring decision in a 15 minute interview. This also allows the prospect to adapt learning through the working environment, culture and interpersonal factors creating a win-win solution for academia, industry, students and their families,” says Jayaram. The institution has a wide variety of customised short courses targeting a broad range of segments to co-create interactive experiential learning in settings such as classrooms, work-based learning, research projects and industry based consultancy activities. “This is quite unlike the role learning approach followed in traditional classrooms. We also have a wide variety of creatively designed assessment strategies rather than boring examinations and tests,” points out Jayaram.

Bhuvan G M

According to Bhuvan G M, principal, Apeejay Institute of Hospitality (AIH) a positive change that is taking place in Mumbai is that the University of Mumbai has implemented a new credit based curriculum incorporating the current needs of the industry. “At AIH, we believe the most effective way of imparting knowledge is to induce a coherent partnership between its two chief facets – learning and application. This is why we have ensured that the institute shares its premises with The Park in Navi Mumbai. Its proximity to the hotel becomes its biggest advantage, as it gives students the opportunity to get hands-on experience during their course of study, in terms of training facilities of the hotel for front office, housekeeping, F&B service and production, and back of house support functions,” states Bhuvan. The institution takes great pride in its faculty, cutting-edge resources, and the drive to stay up-to-date with the latest in the world of hospitality. “We are focused on developing talent in a dynamic learning environment, based on our expertise in hospitality, to enable you to lead our industry into the future,” says Bhuvan with great optimism.

Manipal University has introduced technologically interfaced learning software. E-knowledge, e-jury, e-discussion boards, open book exams are being explored. “The entire transformation of the infrastructure has been enabled in order to simulate the hospitality environment. Standard operating procedures and outcome based learning that simulates and equals the speed at which the student is expected to work in the industry environment have been designed within the curriculum,” states Gopalakrishnan. This apart, real-life experiments with open access to the consumer are encouraged through staged events and promotional activities. Simulation videos, animation and all form of multimedia learning are also encouraged. Proactive feedback and analysis is administered through the Quality Management systems.

Suborno Bose

The International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) and IAM Institute of Hotel Management have consciously moved from a teacher-led strategy to student – centric learning strategy. “We have lesson plans for each sessions – be in theory or practical classes and we strictly adhere to it. The learning takes place in the attached training hotels and it’s like three year of education (minds on) plus three years of hands on experience of the operation of a real high quality hotel,” says Dr Suborno Bose, chairman and chief mentor, Indismart Group Worldwide (owner of IIHM & IAM). The institutions incorporate a lot of multimedia and web based solutions to support delivery. “Also we use the real things in teaching delivery eg we have real time PMS in all our eight campuses and students learn from many net based games,” he mentions.

Preferred career choice

K V Simon

Talent crunch has always been an issue in the industry, which is not known to attract the brightest talent. There has also never been much awareness about role models whose success would inspire young people to enter the sector. Bhuvan feels that the industry can be a preferred career choice only when it can market and brand the profession amongst the young people. K V Simon, regional vice president-S&W Asia, American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute also believes that it is necessary to introduce programmes at high school level to whet the appetite of the youth and be a feeder for long term and specialised programmes as well as for workforce development at entry levels.

“We need to embed our short term hospitality weekend/month long courses within these preliminary learning environments so that young talents in Std VIII, IX and X could be harnessed. We can also deliver easy to digest customised interactive modules in Std XI and XII outside the gamut of MCVC education alone,” adds Jayaram. He feels that students are genuinely excited about hospitality, what is needed is to reach out to them through role models like Amul Food Food Maha Challenge Hero – India ka Super Chef, where Saransh Goila who cooked with Madhuri Dixit had emerged as a role model for young chefs on national TV. “We have a responsibility to demonstrate the positive side of the exciting hospitality industry to these youngsters rather than simply allowing them to experience and focus on the drudgery and monotony of the hospitality industry. This has received more coverage than the passion of being in the hospitality journey. Catch them young is the mantra,” states Jayaram.

Leveraging industry partnerships

Industry-academia partnership is the way forward for hospitality education in the country to ensure that the institutions produce employable talent. The success stories have proven the fact well. “The hospitality faculty should undergo constant immersion in the industry to update and research on the latest trends and practices. Also involving senior professionals from the industry in the teaching-learning process can add value to the students. The academia and industry should partner for the growth and development of the students. Both cannot work in isolation,” mentions Bhuvan.

One of the biggest issues for hotel schools is to produce industry-ready talent. “This is one of our largest challenges which must be resolved by balancing the classroom to internship ration to 30: 70, a model that we currently follow,” states Jayaram. Each year IHM-A students spend 24 weeks in the classroom followed by 12 weeks in the industry. This is topped up by the final 48 weeks in the business which makes them highly employable while also creating sector strength by enhancing their entrepreneurial virtues. He feels that it is also necessary to develop entrepreneurs who could generate employment for the underprivileged. “A tripartite model where we have infrastructure hosts, supported by industry professionals and a high quality knowledge partner, bringing world class research, development and practice to the learner alongside industry practice is the order of the day. Industry is the fulcrum on which skill development, educational and ongoing training initiatives are balanced,” asserts Jayaram.

Synergistic role in knowledge management through academia and industry interface will be crucial. “Joint financial and non-financial partnerships in developing the infrastructure of the institutes and then building in contracts for training the manpower for the industry needs to be designed,” says Gopalakrishnan, adding that members of the industry may be invited to be members of the research committees. The partnerships with academia should attract visibility and brand extensions to both parties. Research funding and consultancy should be co-opted with academia and industry.

To leverage industry partnerships it is necessary for hospitality schools to recruit an excellent faculty and not industry rejects. According to Bose institutions should have people who will just do a lot of hospitality activities in sync with the industry. It is also necessary to pay more than the industry pays. “Here we have a definite advantage since our industry does not pay much (as compared to other sectors) and it’s easy to get real good people by paying more than the industry. These people with their contacts will bring a lot of industry support and hence the students will gain a lot,” adds Bose.

Policy level changes

A lot of changes are needed at the policy level to bring about the real difference – to replace archaic practices with a progressive initiatives. “Most important change that is required is to standardise the curriculum in private institutions with participation from the industry,” states Bhuvan. Jayaram lists the critical change areas – replacing obsolete mechanisms controlling module planning, delivery, assessment and renewal by including dynamic curriculum updates, action based learning systems, proactive and technologically enabled delivery systems, interactive platforms, cross referencing models, creative and practical assessment tools and result oriented learning. “A ruthless approach to making ineffective approaches obsolete without being mired in bureaucracy and shackling administrative procedures is a must. Self defeating systems need to be replaced with active interactive technologies which can take public administration of education to the next level. The current tangles are largely on account of vested interests and parochial approaches which need to give way to universality and the greater common good of mankind so that we can develop a better force to energise the hospitality industry,” adds Jayaram.

There is a need to liberalise hospitality education so that the industry and entrepreneurs would be attracted to invest in education. According to Simon, the other key factors are – launch accreditation of hospitality programmes at all levels so that the programmes will enjoy academic credibility in addition to industry acceptance; there should be multiple/plurality of autonomous accrediting agencies which have domain based expertise and are non-governmental; programme design should offer opportunity for concentrations, specialisations, etc, through electives, and optional choices with all courses and programmes enjoying credit worthiness. Also programmes to be built around a set of modular courses. Such a programme structure will enable multi entry exit points, mobility, etc.

The government’s ‘Hunar Se Yojna’ initiative for capacity building at the bottom of the pyramid is a welcome effort. “We have to develop such a wide variety of sustainable initiatives in education in multiple models including three-month courses which must focus on rehabilitation and generate employment to enhance our capacity bench strength. This is our backbone and we must intensify such activities for sustainability and capacity building through a participative process rather than regulatory approach. If simplistic skills could be rapidly transferred the level of efficiency would multiply rapidly and the effectiveness of talented human resources being engaged on productive projects, allow for greater growth rather than stagnancy,” explains Jayaram.

Chander
Mansharamani

India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB) is coming out with a Vision Document – to make India a preferred convention destination, and to ensure that they are making concerted efforts to develop professionals for the industry. “The ministry might talk about numbers but unless we have professionals supporting the industry it is not possible. We are starting a Young Professionals Forum, which is a full day course for post graduate students of hotel management institutes exclusively for MICE. There will be five-six sessions, we have invited professionals from different segments – event management, hotels and venues, etc, who will interact with these students,” says Chander Mansharamani, vice chairman of ICPB. E g if a student wants to specialise in event management in a hotel he will talk to the expert in the field, or if he wants to get into the line of a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) then he will be given the relevant information and counselling. “If in the next five-six years India’s convention industry has to grow to that level then we need not just infrastructure but also the software,” stated Manshiramani. He points out that earlier in hotels the concept was only of banquet manager who would take care of all the requirements of a client, but now event management is an integral part. “We feel being in this business, banqueting and events are two different things. The banquet manager has to be an event manager also. All the big chains have realised this,” he adds. ICPB has conducted training for teachers of hotel management institutions (IHMs), had sessions with students and teachers of IHM Pusa and have also gone to IGNOU for live interactive sessions with IHMs in India to tell them about event management.

It is important to understand that hospitality involves a lot of creativity and innovation, it is imperative that the evolution of hospitality education should be driven by these two factors.

(With inputs from Joy Roy Choudhury)

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