An assessment of the hospitality curriculums and their impact on the students' preparedness for future career

 

MOHAMED KAMAL ABDIEN,

Hotel Management Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt

 

 

ABSTRACT

Hospitality educational institutions' main role is to provide the hospitality industry with professionals who can perform the varied tasks in the future. However, many employers argued that graduates are not enough qualified. Accordingly, a lot of hospitality organizations do not require a hospitality degree as required in the job description. They ask educational institutions to do more effort to enhance their student' knowledge and skills. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of hospitality curriculums to prepare students for their future career. This objective was achieved by assessing both the respondents' skills and overall preparedness for the industry. The study was carried out on hotel studies program in Alexandria University, Egypt. Only 4th year students and recently graduated were asked to participate in this study; they are more able provide helpful insights than others.  Data were collected by using questionnaires. The findings indicated the importance of four skills; generic skills, fundamental skills, functional related areas skills and concentration related areas skills for the students' preparedness to their future career in the hospitality industry. The study found that respondents who had these skills were more ready for their career. Moreover, it was found that respondents who had work experience in the industry were more prepared than other who had no work experience. Finally, the study advises the educational hospitality institutions to consider the four mentioned skills in their curriculums as well as increasing their students' experience through practical training and field trips to the industry. The study also concludes the necessity for hospitality educators to open lines of communication with the industry professionals to get information about changes in the industry and to provide their students with the up-to-date skills needed for their careers in the hospitality industry.

Key words: hospitality curriculum, preparedness, Alexandria University, Egypt

1.                INTRODUCTION

Although, educational institutions have a great role in providing hospitality industry with skilled employees however, there are many complaints from employers that the students are not well prepared to join the career (Kember & Leung, 2005; Barrie, 2006). Students need to get knowledge and experience from their educational institutions about their professional life. Both the well-developed academic curriculum and real life experience are needed to prepare future professional employees (Chuang et al., 2009). In fact, hospitality educational institutions should offer curriculum of hospitality that is able to prepare students for the required skills for the industry such as interpersonal communication, leadership, and management skills (Ozgit & Caglar, 2015). The continuous cooperation between the educators and persons from the industry is very essential to make sure the changeable needs of the industry (Sarkodie & Adom, 2015). Moreover, a continuous assessment of the hospitality curriculums should be done by both students and educators. This assessment helps to see to what extent students are ready for their future career (Swanger & Gursay, 2007; Ring et al., 2009). This study is aiming to evaluate the level of skills that students gain from their hospitality curriculums and their preparedness to their future career.

 

2.                LITERATURE REVIEW

Many authors such as Jayawardena (2001) and Huang (2014) argued that most hospitality programs in the educational institutions in the developing countries are not able to adapt with the industry needs. Chen et al. (2011) also emphasized that most traditional educations care only about providing their students with the theoretical knowledge and neglecting the practical skill that the industry needs. Therefore, employers often ask universities to produce more prepared graduates Kember & Leung, 2005; Barrie, 2006). Only graduates who have enough employability skills can find career opportunities over their life. In this, hospitality curriculum should provide their students with the skills and competencies needed in the workplace (Barrows et al., 2008). When graduates of hospitality programs are provided with the required skills for the workplace, they will be more useful to their employers and the customers as well (Sarkodie & Adom, 2015).  Educators may waste their time in providing their students with conceptual and analytical skills which are not required or valued by employers (Raybould & Wilkins, 2005). Hence, it is very important to know what the employers expect from the new employees and try to change the curriculum according to these needs and expectations (Kim, 2008). Consequently, curriculum can be updated to meet the needs of the ever-changing workforce and hospitality courses must be related to the environment of the workplace and innovative learning methods should be used (Pratt & Hahn, 2016).

It is the responsibility of current universities to provide their graduates with more transferable skills that can be required into the workplace (Smith, Clegg, Lawrence & Todd, 2007, Barrie, 2006; Kember & Leung, 2005). It is very essential for hospitality educational institutions to teach their students both professional and open-minded aspects (Inui et al., 2006). Hospitality curriculum and courses must consist of strong practical skills as well as ‘soft’ people management skills (Connolly & McGing, 2006). Communication skill, multi lingual, operational skills and computing skills are essential for the graduates to fit into the workplace (Sarkodie & Adom, 2015). It is also the responsibility of industry professionals and stakeholders to provide educational institutions with information about the current needs of the industry. Industry professionals can invite educators to attend industry seminars and communicate openly about new research projects, problem solving, and, in general, networking. Accordingly, the educators can consider the required competencies into the courses they teach and add them in job descriptions. In addition field trips to the industry and guest lecturers should be considered (Millar et al., 2011). Moreover, internship is very important to develop the students' practical skills (Chen et al, 2011). Moreover, Pratt and Hahn (2016) indicated that computer-based simulations have been found to bridge the gap between didactically presented information and experiential learning. A simulation is a specified sequence of “real-life” activities designed to convey lessons to the participants on the properties of a real-world situation.

Many researchers discussed skills that are required for future successful employees in hospitality industry. For example, Breiter & Clements (1996) indicated that human resources skills, conceptual skills and planning skills as necessary to be considered into hospitality curriculum. Ladkin & Juwaheer (2000) also added that effective communication skills are fundamental for career development in the hospitality industry. In addition, Robinson (2006) indicated that leadership skills and conflict management skills are more desired by employers as employability skills. Moreover, Sheriff (2013) emphasized the importance of hospitality functional skills, personal skills and analytical skills as important skills that graduates should have to fit into the industry. Furthermore, Horng & Lu (2006) categorized competencies that students should have into a cognitive domain, skill domain, and affective domain. The cognitive domain includes knowledge about management, sales and marketing, market analysis and knowledge of food and beverage. The skills domain includes self management, leading and staffing skills. It also includes evaluating the quality of food and drinks, work commitment, work effectiveness, and respect for others.

Kretovics, (1999) categorized four groups that involve 12 skills that are required to join the hospitality industry. The first group is interpersonal skills and includes help skills, leadership skills and relationship skills. The second group is information gathering skills and includes sense-making skills, information gathering skills and information analysis skills. The third group is analytical skills and includes goal- setting skills, action skills and initiative skills. The fourth group is behavioural skills and includes theory skills, quantitative skills and technology skills. In addition, Wood (2003) collected many  skills required by the industry such as search skills, hospitality law, tourism promotion, computer applications, strategic planning, development planning, forecasting and budgeting, operational controls, rooms division management, sales technique, food& beverage management, employee training, managerial communication, leadership, employee relations, guest services and staffing. Moreover, Nolan et al. (2010) grouped professional knowledge, operational skills; interpersonal skills, communication, information technology, human resources, finance, sales and marketing as eight necessary competencies. Although it is very useful for students to acquire all the mentioned skills to perform their roles successfully in their future career (Raybould & Wilkins, 2005) however, it is very important to shift from the technical skills to the generic skills (Raybould & Wilkins, 2006; Martin & McCabe, 2007; Wagen, 2006).  These generic skills which are also called employability skills enable students to be interpersonal, creative and open minded in performing their roles and to develop their characters for the career (Raybould and Wilkins, 2005; Martin & McCabe, 2007). Conradie (2012) used a conceptual framework that consists of four elements; generic skills, fundamental curricular related skills, functional areas specific skills, and concentration areas specific skills.  He used this framework to evaluate both the hospitality curriculum and students' preparedness for the career. He indicated that generic skills involve communication, conceptual, analytical, teamwork, leadership and interpersonal skills. He also indicated that fundamental curriculum related skills are experimental learning and application, experience based- learning and application and understanding current issues and practices in the hospitality industry. Moreover, he stated that the functional skills are based on the functional areas in the courses of the curriculum and involve marketing, human recourses, finance, hospitality operations and technology information. Concentration areas related skills are five which deprived from the analysis of the courses of the curriculum; lodging management, food and beverage management, club  management, casino management and convention and events management

 

3.                HYPOTHESES

1.     There is a positive relation between students' level of generic skills and their preparedness to future career.

2.     There is a positive relation between students' level of fundamental curruclum related skills and their preparedness to future career.

3.     There is a positive relation between students' level of functional area related skills and their preparedness to future career.

4.     There is a positive relation between students' level of concentration area related skills and their preparedness to future career.

5.     Students' preparedness to future career is varied significantly according to their profile (gender, age, academic year and work experience)

 

4.                METHODOLOGY

The target population of this study consisted of students of hotel studies program in Alexandria University. Only 4th year students and who are recently graduated are asked to participate in this study as they are more able provide helpful insights than others students. Data were collected by using questionnaires. The questionnaire is divided into three sections. The first section consists of 41 items asking about the respondents' level of generic skills, fundamental curriculum related skills, functional skills and concentration areas related skills.  Students were asked to rate their skills on 5 point scale as 1 very poor, and 5 very good. The second section consists of 9 items aiming at measuring the participants' perceptions of how career-ready they are as a result of their studying the college's current curriculum. Students were also asked to rate their preparedness to the future career on 5 point scale as 1 "very poor", and 5 "very good". The third section asked participants to rank their skills of the functional areas as well as their skills of the concentration areas. They were asked to rank items from the highest to lowest priority as 1 is the highest and 5 is the lowest. The fourth section involves demographic questions such as gender, academic year, and work experience.  The questionnaires were distributed to 100 respondents and only 81 were returned and valid for the statistical analyses.

5. RESULTS

5.1 Reliability and validity analysis

First, the survey was pre tested with academic experts to consider comments concerning structure, wording, and items of the survey. Second, the data for the entire study were input into the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS, version 20) program for Windows to interpret results. A reliability analysis (Cronbach’s Alpha) was conducted to ensure the validity and reliability of the questionnaire items. All the study's constructs have considerably high reliability as all values of Cronbach’s alpha for these constructs are high as shown below in table 1.

Table 1 Reliability Analysis for Survey's Constructs

 

Number of items

Cronbach's Alpha

Generic  skills

21

.858

Fundamental curruclum related skills

3

.950

Functional skills

9

.979

Concentration skills

10

.938

Overall preparedness

7

.876

 

5.2 Descriptive analysis of the Demographic profile

Demographic data indicates that most respondents were males (63%). The majority of the respondents were graduated recently (55.6%) and the rest (44.4%) are in the fourth year.   Many respondents (54.3%) answered they have experience and training in the field of the hotel while others (45.7%) answered they have no experience or training. In addition, low percentage of respondents (37%) answered they currently work in hotels while the majority (63%) do not work.

 

5.3 Descriptive analysis of the study's variables

Table 2 summarize the attitudes of the respondents' answers to the survey items. Respondents perceived their level of the generic skills as "fair". They perceived all communication skills "good" as mean values ranged between 3.62 and 3.91. "Writing skills" as communication skills were perceived the highest followed by "speaking skills", "presentation skills" and "listening skills". "Conceptual related skills" were perceived "fair" as mean scores ranged between 2.63 and 3.25.  "Hospitality law" as conceptual related skills was the lowest perceived while sales techniques were the highest. Analytical skills were percieved " poor" as it has an average mean (2.47). Although "using numerical and forecasting" as analytical skills were perceived "poor" however "problem solving and critical reflecting thinking skills" were perceived "fair". Teamwork skills were perceived "good" with average mean score 4.05. "Providing feedback and motivating others" as teamwork skills were perceived "very good". Although leadership related skills were perceived "fair" as average mean score 3.18, however, "staffing skills" were perceived "good". Interpersonal skills were perceived "good" as average mean score 3.77.  "Self-management" and "adaptability and learning skills" were perceived "fair" but "Ethical behaviour" and "Passion for service to the industry" were perceived "good".

Respondents perceived fundamental curruclum related skills "good" as mean score 3.44. Results clarified that their "understanding of current issues and practices in the hospitality industry" is "good" but their "Experience based- learning" and application" and "Experimental learning and application" are seen "fair". Repondenteds percieved their skills of the hospitalty functional areas "fair". "Understanding and applying human resources functions and polices" was seen the most prepared by the respondents while "understanding and applying hospitality financial management fundamentals" was seen the least prepared. In addition, they were also asked about their level of skills of the hospitality concentration areas. Results showed that their skills were "fair". "Understanding the different functional areas of hotels, and resorts such as front desk, housekeeping, etc." was seen the higher which means the most prepared for them while "Demonstrating in-depth club knowledge, understanding and applying the fundamentals of club management ", "applying casino management competencies" and "understanding both internal and external casino environment" were the lower in their mean scores which mean they are the less prepared. Finally, results showed that repondents' overall preparedness to the future career was "fair". Although their "Level of preparedness to work in the industry" and "Level of overall satisfaction with learning in the hospitality program" were "good", however " their "likelihood of recommending this hospitality program to others" was "fair". 

Table 2 Descriptive Analysis of Data

 

Mean

Attitude

Generic skills

3.38

Fair

Communication skills

3.76

Good

Conceptual skills

3.05

Fair

Analytical skills

2.47

Poor

Teamwork skills

4.05

Good

Leadership related skills

3.18

Fair

Interpersonal skills

3.77

Good

Fundamental Curruclum Related Skills

3.44

Good

Experimental learning and application

3.10

Fair

Experience based- learning and application

3.24

fair

Understanding current issues and practices in the hospitality industry

4.00

Good

Functional  Area Related Skills

3.09

Fair

Understanding marketing concepts and applying hospitality marketing functions.

3.79

Good

Understanding and applying hospitality promotion, sales, advertising techniques.

3.47

Good

Understanding and applying human resources functions and polices.

4.21

V.good

Understanding of employment potential of identified supported populations and labour relations.

3.52

Good

Understanding and analyzing accounting data.

2.99

Fair

Understanding and applying hospitality financial management fundamentals

2.20

Poor

Demonstrating skilful use of IT for processing and communicating information in the industry.

2.43

Poor

Applying analytical skills related to the hospitably industry.

2.53

poor

Demonstrating knowledge and food service systems including PMS, POS, and revenue management.

2.69

Fair

Concentration  Area Related Skills

3.08

Fair

Demonstrating a clear understanding of the principles of food fabrication, production, nutrition, safety, quality, services, purchasing, cost controls, and critical issues related to F & B management.

3.10

Fair

Identifying types of beverage and demonstrating knowledge of beverage management.

3.21

Fair

meetings and convention management skills.

3.11

Fair

Level of preparedness in event management skills.

3.04

Fair

Demonstrating catering and banqueting functions and skills.

3.74

good

 Understanding the different functional areas of hotels, such as front desk, housekeeping...etc.

3.91

Good

Demonstrating club knowledge, unserstanding  and applying the fundamentals of club management.

2.22

Poor

Understanding both internal and external casino environment.

2.49

Poor

applying casino management competencies.

2.42

Poor

unserstanding the overall hospitalty phonemenon and applying management competencies.

3.56

Good

Overall  preparedness

3.35

Fair

Level of preparedness to work in the industry.

3.60

Good

Level of overall satisfaction with learning in the hospitality program?

3.42

Good

level of overall quality of education in the current program

3.35

Fair

Likelihood of recommending this hospitality program to others

3.13

Fair

I am happy I am majoring in hospitality and tourism management.

3.22

Fair

I have received a great education from this hospitalty program based on what I have paid for.

3.09

Fair

I believe that hosptalty and tourism management in a good course to study.

3.05

Fair

Respondents were asked to rank their level of skills to the functional areas of the hospitality management program. The results are summarized in table 3 and it is clear that human recourses were considered the most prepared while finance and accounting were the least prepared. Respondents were also asked to rank their level of preparedness of hospitality concentration areas. According to the results in table 3, food and beverage management was the most prepared followed by lodging management while convention management was the least prepared.

Table 3 Ranking Students' Skills

Functional Areas Related Skills

Mean

Rank

Concentration Areas Related Skills

Mean

Rank

Human resources

1.62

1

Food and beverage management

1.87

1

Marketing

1.86

2

Lodging management

2.28

2

Hospitality operation

1.93

3

Club management

2.48

3

Information technology

2.26

4

Casino management

2.60

4

Finance and accounting

4.23

5

Convention management

2.65

5

 

5.4 Testing Hypotheses

The statistical Pearson was used to test the four hypotheses as seen in table 4. The statistical Pearson test revealed a significant and positive correlation between generic skills and the preparedness to the future career. It recorded a positive correlation (.931) with high significant (P < 0.01). Therefore, hypothesis H1 is supported. Hence, the more students have generic skill the more they are prepared to their future career. The statistical test also revealed a significant correlation between fundamental curriculum related skills and the preparedness to the future career. It recorded p-value (.000). Therefore, hypothesis H2 is supported. In addition, functional skills were seen to be related to the preparedness of future career as the statistical test recorded p value (.000). Therefore, H3 is supported. Moreover, the statistical test revealed that concentration areas related skills have a positive relationship with students’ preparedness as p value (.000). Therefore, H4 is supported. 

Table 4 Correlations Analysis

                                                        Students' Preparedness

H1

Generic skills

Pearson Correlation

.931**

Supported

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

H2

Fundamental curriculum related skills

Pearson Correlation

.919**

Supported

Sig. (2-tailed)

.001

H3

Functional area related skills

Pearson Correlation

.928**

Supported

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

H4

Concentration areas related skills

Pearson Correlation

.895**

Supported

Sig. (2-tailed)

.003

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).                                 

Mann Whitney test was conducted to see if there are statistically significant variances of the respondents' preparedness according to their gender, academic year and work experience (see table 5). The results showed significant variances as p value was ˂ .01. Males were found to be more prepared to the future career than females. Respondents who were recently graduated were also found to be more prepared than fourth year students. Moreover, respondents who had work experience were found to be more prepared than respondents who had not. Therefore, H5 is supported.

Table 5 Results of Mann Whitney Test

 

No

Mean

p. value

Testing hypothesis

 

 

Gender

 

 

.000

H5 supported

 

     Male

51

3.76

 

     Female

30

2.67

 

Academic year

 

 

.000

 

     Fourth year

36

3.96

 

     Recent Graduated

45

2.87

 

Work experience

.000

 

     Yes

44

3.86

 

      No

37

2.76

                     

6.     DISCUSSION

According to many researchers such as Conradie (2012) and Rahman (2010), students should acquire four types of skills in order to join the career of hospitality industry. These skills are generic skills, fundamental skills, functional areas related skills and concentration areas related skills. The respondents in this study were asked to evaluate their perception about these four types of skills.  First, they were asked to evaluate their generic skills (communication skills, conceptual skills, and analytical skills, teamwork skills and interpersonal skills). Communication skills, teamwork skills, interpersonal skills were perceived good. Conceptual skills, leadership skills were perceived fair. Analytical skills were perceived poor. In fact, this result indicates that graduates need to be consistently trained through formal courses or trainings to improve all their employable/generic skills and to increase their self confidence, self esteem and the value of contribution to the industry (Raybould & Wilkins, 2006; Subramonian, 2008; Rao, 2010). Second, respondents were asked to evaluate the fundamental skills. Although fundamental skills such as understanding current issues and practices in the hospitality industry were perceived good. However, experimental learning and application and experience based- learning and application skills were perceived fair. Rahman (2010) concluded that fundamental skills are important and required hospitality skills that should be more considered to meet the satisfaction of the industry. Simulations, experiential learning, and case studies skills are recognized to develop key competencies for hotel management students (Ineson et al., 2011). Third, respondents were asked about the functional areas related skills. These skills were perceived fair. According to literature review and the results of the study, students should be more provided with functional areas related skills which are human resources, marketing, hospitality operation, information technology and finance and accounting (Rahman, 2010). Fourth, respondents were asked about the concentration areas related skills. They were perceived fair. Hence, it is very important to focus more to improve the students' level of these essential skills. According to literature review, students should have concentration areas related skills namely; food and beverage management, lodging management, club management, casino management and convention management (Bach & Milman, 1996; Barrows & Walsh, 2002; Rahman, 2010).

In general, generic skills, fundamental areas related skills; functional curriculum related skills and concentration area related skills were significantly correlated to the respondents' preparedness to the future career. This result was agreed with Rahman (2010) and Conradie (2012), they indicated that students are quite well prepared for their career when they have these skills. Hence, educational hospitality program should increase their students' knowledge and experience (Chen et al., 2011). In other words, the education institution must take into account the competencies represented by the industry expectations based on the fact that these competencies must be possessed by the graduate in order to survive in working within the industry environment (Shariff, et al., 2014). Finally, it was found that respondents' preparedness is significantly influenced by their previous work experience; they will be more prepared for the career when they have work experience This result was well-matched to Schoffstall (2013) as he found that the skills and general experiences gained by students working in industry during completing their degrees significantly influence their preparedness to the career.

 

7.     CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of hospitality curriculums to prepare students for their future career. This objective was achieved by assessing both respondents' skills and overall preparedness for the industry. The findings indicated the importance of four skills; generic skills, fundamental skills, functional related areas skills and concentration related areas skills for the students' preparedness to their future career in the industry. The study confirmed that respondents who had these skills were more ready for their career. Moreover, it was found that respondents who had work experience in the industry were more prepared than other who had no work experience.

The study concluded the necessity for hospitality educators to open lines of communication with the industry professionals to get information about changes in the industry and to provide their students with the up-to-date skills needed for their careers in the hospitality industry. Educators should also attend industry seminars and communicate openly about new research projects, problem solving and challenges of the industry. Accordingly, this study calls educational hospitality institutions to review their curriculum in order to keep the changes and challenges of the industry. The study also calls the educational hospitality institutions to consider the four mentioned skills in their hospitality programs as well as increasing the students' experience through many practices such as practical training and field trips to the industry. They have to make sure that academic courses are related to the generic employability skills. Moreover, this study call students especially females to do more efforts to increase their work experience during their learning and after their graduation as it helps them improve their confidence and preparedness to join the industry.

8.     LIMITATIONS

The used framework that consists of four types of skills in this study is only evaluated according to the students' and graduates' perceptions. This framework could be evaluated in the future researches by both the instructors who are preparing the curriculums as well as the industry professionals. This study was only applied on Alexandria University's students. Future researches may be applied in other universities and make comparative analysis.

 

 

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