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Importance of practical training for a hospitality management career

Frank Giannotti
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Young people contemplating a hospitality management education should be aware of the importance of getting a thorough grounding in the basic arts of hospitality, including rooms division, kitchen and service.

Theory classes vs practical training

Many hotel schools, especially those attached to universities, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries, tend to emphasize academic courses at the expense of practical training. Meanwhile, Swiss hotel management schools, in particular, have traditionally emphasized the acquisition of practical hospitality skills. 

The idea that one must attend a university to have a successful career is disproven by the Swiss system of training and education which features strong apprenticeship programs that include practical on-the-job experience, combined with courses in key business-related areas.

In fact, some of the most important business figures in the country, such as the head of Switzerland's largest bank, Sergio Ermotti, CEO of the UBS, came up through the ranks as an apprentice.

Hospitality, more than most other professions, requires a broad knowledge of many areas, including, for example, food, wine, hygiene, construction, IT, CRM (customer relations management) and accounting, which can only be thoroughly mastered through practical training and experience.

Professional Education and Training Schools 

As noted above, since the 19th century, Swiss hotel schools have been training students to achieve the highest standards in terms of guest experience and professional management. However, not all Swiss hotel management schools are the same.

One category stands out among the Switzerland's many educational institutions: Professional Education and Training Schools (PET), which are hotel management schools whose degree programs are officially recognized by the Swiss government. These schools have been subjected to a strict evaluation of quality standards through a detailed review by officially commissioned experts.

Students attending these institutions can be sure that they are being optimally prepared for the professional world.

On completion of their training program, they obtain an Advanced (Swiss) Federal Diploma of Higher Education in Hospitality and are entitled to use the state-protected title “Dipl. Hotelier-Gastronom HF / dipl. Hoteliere-Gastronomin HF”, which is recognized worldwide as a certificate of excellence.

The Swiss hospitality professional network

The hotel management schools whose course programs are formally recognized by the Swiss government are part of the Swiss professional educational system, which is known for its ability to combine theory and practice. Switzerland's three hospitality industry trade associations, including, hotelleriesuisse, GastroSuisse and Hotel & Gastro Union, are directly involved in defining course content, which allows the hotel management schools to remain up-to-date with the latest developments in the hospitality industry.

The hotel management schools endorsed and recommended by hotelleriesuisse (Swiss Hotel Association) are recognized as PET colleges by the Swiss Federal Government. Study and practice alternate during the comprehensive three-year program and the PET colleges enable students to put theory into practice right from the start. Once they have acquired their hotel management school degrees in hospitality management, they are well prepared to assume independent professional and management positions in the hospitality and catering sector.

EHL SSTH's unique program

Although there are six Swiss hotel management schools which offer PET programs that are officially recognized by the Swiss government, they differ in terms of the language of instruction, location and individual areas of emphasis. In fact, EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (EHL SSTH) in Passugg was the first one that offered the Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education in Hospitality degree program in English, which is a distinct advantage for international students. 

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The Swiss Professional Degree program in detail

The basic idea behind EHL SSTH's PET program is entrepreneurship, imparting the necessary knowledge and skills for a holistic understanding of operations and the assumption of management responsibility through a well-structured progression of courses and internships.

In the first two semesters, students focus on the operational side of hospitality, including: kitchen, service, reception and housekeeping.

Then, the third semester is devoted to a six-month paid internship in a Swiss hotel or restaurant, which allows students to put their newly acquired knowledge and skills into practice in a professional environment.

In the fourth semester, students delve deeper into the fundamentals of management - not only in theory but also in practice: for instance, they will design the restaurant of their dreams and run it for a week in EHL SSTH's on-campus restaurant. In the fifth semester, students complete a management internship in Switzerland or abroad, where they are able to put the fundamentals learned in semester four into practice. In the sixth and final semester, students' entrepreneurial skills are further enhanced through intensive training in a chosen field of specialization - either "Culinary Arts" or "Spa & Wellness Management".

Possibility to pursue a bachelor 

Upon completing the Swiss Professional Degree, students have the option of going on to acquire a Bachelor in International Hospitality Management, whose curriculum is designed and delivered by the prestigious Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne in three academic semesters at the EHL Campus Passugg.

Written by

Lecturer and International Career Coordinator at EHL Passugg

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