Generic Skills for Hospitality Management: A Comparative Study of Management Expectations and Student Perceptions

Article excerpt

Tertiary providers of hospitality management degree programs must fulfil the needs of student, industry and academic stakeholder groups. The students attracted to this type of program tend to be motivated primarily by the anticipated vocational outcomes. As a result, hospitality management curriculum needs to meet both industry and student expectations by delivering the skill sets needed in the workplace and the institutional demands for academic rigour. This article reports on research that aimed to compare hospitality managers' expectations of graduate skills with student perceptions of the skills that hospitality managers valued. In contrast to previous research on this topic, this study adopted a generic skills framework and managers rated skills associated with interpersonal, problem-solving, and self-management skill domains as most important. Although students tended to rate conceptual and analytical skills more highly than did managers, overall their perceptions of the skills that hospitality managers valued when recruiting graduates were realistic. The results of this, and similar studies, can contribute to curriculum design and the internal and external communications strategies adopted by faculty offering hospitality management programs.

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Since its inception in the 1920s, there has been considerable growth in hotel and hospitality management education at universities worldwide. However, there has been no change over time in the role of vocational degree programs, including those in hotel and hospitality management, that aim to satisfy an industry need for skilled future employees. As a result, there is a need to ensure the graduates not only meet educational expectations, but also industry expectations regarding the skill sets needed in the workplace. Students enrolling in degree programs in hotel or hospitality management are motivated by anticipated vocational and career outcomes (O'Mahony, McWilliams, & Whitelaw, 2001; Purcell & Quinn, 1996). Thus there is a commonality of interest among educators, industry and students in the currency of workplace skills. This research investigated hospitality managers' expectations of graduate skills and compared these with students' perceptions of the skills that hospitality managers valued. The results of this research are valuable in curriculum development and planning internal and external communications strategies for faculty offering similar courses.

Tertiary educators in hospitality have long recognised the importance of matching program outcomes with industry needs and there have been a number of studies of hospitality employer expectations of graduates in the United States (US; for recent examples see Kay & Russette, 2000; Nelson & Dopson, 1999; Perdue, Woods, & Ninemeier, 2000) and in the United Kingdom (UK; Baum, 1991). However, there has been little published in the Asia Pacific region and previous studies have generally adopted the management competency framework developed by Sandwith (1993). This is arguably of limited value in curriculum design as it describes a narrow range of relatively advanced management skills that one would not expect to find in an undergraduate or recent graduate. Instead this study adopts the broader generic skills model, which was developed in an educational context to aid curriculum design (Dunne, Bennett, & Carre, 1999).

Literature Review

A number of studies have investigated industry expectations of graduates, graduates' actual skill levels and broader issues related to the hospitality curriculum. This review of the literature is structured under four related themes. It starts by considering the changing needs of industry, the skills that graduates need to commence a career in hospitality management and the role of the hospitality curriculum in developing those skills. It concludes with an overview of the generic skills model that was adopted as the underlying framework for the current research. …