In today’s world, the most in-demand skill sets change yearly, young graduates have trouble bagging their dream jobs, and employers struggle to fill essential roles. Yet, one sector doesn’t suffer from this disconnect between academic education and industry needs. It’s the hospitality industry, and vocational education is its proven solution.
By offering dual education with industry partnerships, hospitality Vocational Education and Training (VET) gives students the skills they need to succeed in the real world and meet the talent needs of the industry. This article examines the mutual benefits of educational industry partnerships, explains how they work, and provides practical tips on how to create them for a win-win solution.
The impact of industry partners in Vocational Education
Establishing partnerships between vocational education institutions and local businesses is a mutually beneficial arrangement that offers many advantages, such as:
- Enhancing students' learning experiences.
- Providing exposure to real-world industry practices (see VET apprenticeship model).
- Promoting career readiness and employability.
- Bridging the gap between academic knowledge and industry skills.
Such partnerships are a key component of the Swiss dual education model which has earned Switzerland a very low youth unemployment rate (approximately 3% compared to EU averages of around 17%). Governments across the globe and the European Commission are adopting this dual training system because it responds to economic needs, with industry partnerships providing learners with real work experience and applied learning opportunities, which makes graduates more immediately employable.
The benefits of Vocational Education partnerships
The first beneficiary of educational industry partnerships is the student. Today’s prospective college students (Gen Z) are increasingly interested in alternatives to traditional higher education, and vocational education meets three of their top priorities: entrepreneurship opportunities, job security, and a fast path to high earning potential.
Indeed, VET allows students to progress in their education while earning money and qualifications they can use immediately, with opportunities to enter the workforce quickly or start a business. Partnerships between educational institutions and local hospitality businesses are the key to this learning model and the source of these advantages for students:
1. Practical experience & real-world learning
By collaborating with local hotels and restaurants, educational institutions can create learning opportunities that offer students practical experience. In addition to being more stimulating and hands-on than reading assignments and classroom lectures, practical learning and industry immersion prepare students for the workforce by exposing them to the daily operations and trends of the hospitality industry. It’s not just more fun, it’s a more effective way to learn.
2. Boosting career pathways
Partnering with local hospitality businesses provides students with job opportunities after graduation. Businesses that have established relationships with educational institutions are more likely to hire students who have completed their programs. This leads to better job prospects for students and a more prepared workforce for the hospitality industry.
3. Establishing professional relationships
Partnerships between educational institutions and local hospitality businesses can establish long-term relationships that benefit all parties. Students get the opportunity to earn money while learning, making it easier to finance their studies. Educational institutions benefit from the expertise of businesses, and businesses benefit from the fresh ideas and perspectives of students.
Benefits for hospitality businesses
Hospitality businesses also benefit greatly from collaborating with local schools, colleges, and training programs. This collaboration not only helps businesses fill their vacant positions with qualified candidates, but it also provides opportunities for employee training and development.
Moreover, such collaboration increases community engagement and contributes to a positive brand image for the business. The exchange of ideas and knowledge between industry professionals and subject-expert academics can also lead to the development of innovative solutions for industry challenges.
According to a study on cooperative education, hospitality industry partners perceived five notable benefits from partnering with schools:
- Recruitment benefits: easier access to a better pool of talent.
- Enhanced skill sets: students develop both hard and soft skills
- Social responsibility: a pay-it-forward mentality for a healthy work environment.
- Employee loyalty: lower attrition rates and better engagement among students hired
- Resources: optimization of shared resources and more growth opportunities
One respondent mentioned the innovation factor:
“Students bring an energy and a freshness of perspective to their work that is valuable. Sometimes students have ideas that would be difficult for someone who works in the industry to devise single-handedly. This is the beautiful new perspective offered by students.”
Establishing successful industry partnerships
Creating partnerships between educational institutions and hospitality businesses is mutually beneficial, but it’s not always easy to get started. Businesses have their unique requirements and limitations, such as seasonal demands, financial considerations, and compliance policies. Educational institutions also have unique standards about the academic implications and employment conditions for students.
By following the tips outlined below, industry partnerships with schools are more likely successful and lead to increased innovation and growth for both parties.
Here are some tips on how to create successful partnerships:
1. Identify common goals
Before establishing a partnership, it is essential to identify common goals that both parties can work towards. This helps ensure that the partnership is mutually beneficial and that both parties are working towards a common goal.
2. Communicate effectively
Effective communication is essential in any partnership. Both parties must be clear about their expectations, goals, and timelines. To ensure that the partnership is successful, it is essential to communicate regularly and honestly.
3. Create trust and collaboration
Partnerships can be complex, so both parties need to be flexible and open to compromise. Both parties must be willing to acknowledge each other’s expertise, limitations, and requirements, and be fully invested in shared initiatives. This requires accepting feedback and changes and working together to find solutions that benefit everyone.
Examples of partnerships in the hospitality industry
To give you a better idea of how industry partnerships work in practice, let's take a closer look at some successful initiatives and programs.
For background, EHL, founded in 1893 and ranked number one among hospitality schools worldwide, is a prime example of an institution that maintains successful partnerships in the hospitality industry. The school has long-established partnerships with leading hospitality brands such as Marriott International, Accor, and Hilton, among others.
The experts from EHL’s Education Consulting branch developed the VET by EHL licensing model to bring the expertise of EHL to organizations and training centers around the world, with VET hospitality programs that involve industry partners and lead to EHL-approved professional diplomas.
One such program is the VET by EHL Apprenticeship Model program, which provides students with a three-semester apprenticeship that includes four days a week of on-the-job training in a partner hotel or restaurant, interspersed with one day of classroom learning. Implemented by VET by EHL partner schools around the world, this program encourages internship placement in local hotels and restaurants to allow students to gain practical experience in their market and build strong relationships with local hiring professionals while they study. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive not only a recognized Swiss federal diploma but, in most cases, they also get a job offer from their partner hotel or restaurant.
Consider the example of the Bhutan International School of Hospitality and Tourism (BISHT), which was the first VET by EHL center to open its doors. Using the VET partnership model, they developed a strong talent pool of students actively recruited by local businesses in Bhutan. This led to 95% of graduates finding gainful employment, with 60% being directly hired by local industries and internationally.
Another example comes from Sri Lanka, where an urgent need to fulfill the industry's demand for a skilled workforce motivated Sri Lanka’s SHMA (Swiss Hotel Management Academy) to implement VET by EHL programs via an asset-light model. SHMA partnered with Colombo’s finest hotels to deliver its VET program. In practice, this means that the theoretical classes are held in hotel conference spaces while the practical training takes place at some of the country’s top-ranked facilities.
Testimonials from educational institutions and industry partners highlight the benefits of these partnerships.
In conclusion, industry partnerships with schools offer a win-win solution for both students and employers. By providing students with real-world learning experiences and job opportunities, and by giving employers access to a skilled and knowledgeable talent pool, these partnerships are essential for the growth and development of the hospitality industry.
However, not just any partnership will do and collaboration can be complicated, which is why hospitality schools and businesses should call on the experience of experts, such as the team that runs VET by EHL, to create their industry partnership agreements. This collaboration allows educational institutions and hospitality businesses to implement successful collaborations based on each party's unique needs and mutual goals. By following the tips outlined above, partnerships can be successful and lead to increased innovation and growth for both parties.
To learn more about VET solutions, continue your reading with these articles.