The pandemic and subsequent economic crisis have had a significant impact on many industries and have changed them permanently. The hospitality industry has been particularly affected: in 2020, 15.8 million fewer overnight stays were recorded in Switzerland and 40’400 jobs were lost. The experts at EHL are confronted with the effects of these changes on a daily basis. That is why they are adapting the curriculum to best prepare students for new requirements and realities, and are driving forces when it comes to innovative approaches and new concepts in the hospitality sector thanks to their industry expertise.
Interview about the skilled worker shortage in the hospitality industry with Beatrice Schweighauser, Dean of the HoKo apprenticeship and the Swiss professional degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management at EHL Passugg.
Why has the job attraction of the hospitality industry dropped?
I believe that the industry itself holds an important key to combating the worker shortage. Today's apprentices and students are tomorrow's skilled workers. The companies must not slacken in their efforts to ensure good training quality. Schools are working on new structures, offering learning opportunities in a variety of formats, and each and every lecturer must show conviction, professionalism, and heart and soul in empowering young people so that they are equipped to work in the industry. Likewise, young professionals need attractive career prospects so that we can keep them in the industry. But without the necessary appreciation and recognition, these well-trained professionals will unfortunately leave again. So socio-political efforts are needed.
In my opinion, an important task therefore lies in convincing working conditions. Creativity in recruitment is needed, as well as the training of talents and the activation of further employee potential, such as women returning to work or career changers. The industry is already very female-dominated, and we also have a continuously high proportion of female students and trainees at school. Here it is important to find suitable measures to offer women the appropriate flexibility to keep them in the industry.
In the future, it will be essential for employers to be present in the labor market with a strong employer brand, strategic recruiting and employee development. I also think that the 4-day work week can become a USP in the recruiting process.
In my opinion, the current bad image of the industry has many facets; on the one hand, the shoe pinches at the outdated management structures, the long working hours, high workload and mediocre wages. In order to make the industry attractive again, these structural conditions need to be changed so that young professionals become more interested in our industry. We need to create cultures of advocacy in which Generation Z and Y feel comfortable.
Training and continuing education offerings must also adapt to future challenges and implement the new possibilities of blended learning, so that access can be designed independently of time and place. For today's young professionals, the majority of whom are Generation Z, the relationship to work has changed. Generation Z's expectations of the workplace are value-driven and in line with their personal morals, and diversity, equality and inclusion are highly valued, as are safety, communication and transparency.
Even though they have a reputation for being glued to their screens, Generation Z workers actually seem to place a high value on relationships and personal communication in the workplace. One study found that 90% of Generation Z workers want and value human relationships when it comes to their workplace. However, there are also great companies that start exactly there and are therefore also very successful and implement an exemplary employer branding. In order to counteract the shortage of skilled workers, joint efforts are needed from the industry, educational institutions and companies.
Important: In order to increase the attractiveness of the industry, it is therefore necessary for each individual company to become aware of its role in this process.
How does EHL Passugg respond to the worker shortage in the hospitality industry?
It is our task to offer apprentices and students the opportunities of lifelong learning as well as to perceive the demands from the companies, to closely follow the development and to proactively implement the learning contents into the curricula. With all our actions, we support the professional mobility and labor market skills of our students.
On the one hand, we do this with our professional training programs such as the new EFZ apprenticeship Hotel Communication Specialist or the revised HF curriculum for the Swiss Professional Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management which started for the first time in January, as well as the Bachelor program. We also offer new "Short Courses" every year for companies so that they can train themselves and their employees with us. As an educational institution, we are involved in education policy issues with the associations and use our education know-how wherever we can counteract the shortage of skilled workers or take preventive action. For example, in the pilot for the lateral entry program "Reception" for the Zurich Hotelier Association.
Is the lateral entry project a problem-solving approach for addressing the worker shortage?
The pilot project originated from the grassroots; that is, the Zurich hoteliers approached the association with the concrete idea and the overview of industry needs. I think this is very important for a successful implementation. There is a lack of uncomplicated entry opportunities for people who are well educated but have no experience in the industry.
The pilot program is aimed at career changers who want to make a fresh start in the hotel industry. However, we are also looking for people who, for example after a longer break, would like to re-enter professional life. This can also be an opportunity for women with families to successfully gain a foothold with a professional update. The experience gained from the pilot will be used to determine whether this approach has proven successful and can be multiplied for other regions. It is important that such lateral entry projects are a sustainable solution and not a quick fix!
How do you explain the fact that 400 applications for the lateral entry program were received, even though work in the industry is supposedly so unattractive?
This shows that our industry is very attractive for career changers and that we can tap into a potential for skilled workers that is important. The hospitality industry offers numerous career opportunities and meaningful work with and for people, which is associated with many positive emotions. We need to build more on these positive emotions, this job satisfaction and enthusiasm. This great demand also shows that such a low-threshold offer has been lacking until now and here Hotelleriesuisse has started a promising program together with the educational institutions and companies.
What alternative program have you introduced to face the worker shortage?
The EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality is part of the EHL Group and therefore a sister school of the EHL Hospitality Business School. The EHL Group has 3 campuses whereby EHL Campus Passugg focuses on professional training with 3 main programs: Hotel Communication Specialist EFZ, Swiss Professional Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Direct Entry Bachelor in International Hospitality Management. We are unique in the industry and in Switzerland with this permeability; from an apprenticeship to the Bachelor on one campus! Furthermore, we offer several short courses to industry experts to deepen their expertise within their fields.
Developments in the Swiss Professional Degree Program
Our new orientation of the Swiss Professional Degree program goes in the direction of Affective Hospitality; a good hotelier/host convinces his employees and guests with his personality! This is what we want to pass on to our students. We are working on a research project with the University of Geneva (Institute for Affective Science) and will be able to create future-oriented foundations. We are thus putting more emphasis on soft skills, interpersonal skills, behaviors and attitudes, and social skills. We have summarized the skills in our new Swiss Professional Degree curriculum into four different roles: Host, Communicator, Entrepreneur and Networker. Graduates should be able to use their different roles at the right time on the hotel stage with a lot of professionalism.
The new profession: Hotel Communication Specialist EFZ
This "new" profession closes a gap in our portfolio of professions; the young professionals are introduced to all areas of the hotel in a 360 training and thus gain a very broad insight into the industry. This profession has its origins in Graubünden and has evolved from the former cantonal training Hotel-Restaurant specialist - a professional pearl in the canton.