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Developing right orientation and attitude key to enhancing employability

Ashwani Nayar, Multi-property General Manager, Westin and an IHM Pusa alumnus with 27 year of experience in the hospitality industry recently had his Batch Reunion. He says he could count the number of hoteliers on one hand out of 270 students from his batch. There is widespread concern that the hospitality sector lacks enough quality institution, then there are lack of quality students coming forward for a career in hospitality and tourism sector, and to top it all there is also a gap in hotel graduates’ expectations and the reality on the ground in terms of long working hours, split shift, remuneration and to some extent opportunities as well. No wonder, Nayar could count those from his batch still around in the hospitality sector, on one hand.

Nayar was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Enhancing employability of hotel graduates’ at SATTE 2018 in Delhi last month. Moderated by K K Pant, Principal, IHM Pusa, other panellists on the session included Swarup Sinha, Principal, ITC, Hospitality Management Division; Chef Vivek Sagar from Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council and Nimisha Seth, faculty with IHM Pusa and also representing National Council of Hotel Management. The panellists delve on a range of issues concerning enhancing of employability of hotel graduates.

Setting the tone of the discussion, Pant said, “We are in a situation where the educational institution and the people who enrolled in those institutions are not really happy. There is a kind of disenchantment in the industry and it is not helping anybody. And, with the kind of ambitious plan that the government has about tourism, if this situation were to continue, I don’t think that the government is ever going to achieve the kind of task it has set out for itself.” 

Outlining key industry issue on talent, employability, grooming and meeting expectations, Nayar said, “In my generation a decade or two ago we in the hospitality industry fought the war on customer acquisition. Now this is the time, especially going ahead, the war is going to be fought on talent acquisition, particularly right talent acquisition for the right job and retention of that talent.” He also said that those days are gone when we were under paying people, and also insisted on students developing the right attitude and behaviour.

Furthermore, he said, “When I look at us serving the millennial as guests today, I definitely need millennial in my team to be serving them. It is very important for industry to understand them, their requirements and what is it that they are seeking, and then selling those expectations right. It can happen at the level when young students pass out of school when we first approach them. That’s when we need to reach out to them and set those expectations right. There are few basics about this industry which are not going to change. Long working hours, hard work, especially in departments like F&B and kitchen is not going to go away.”

Sinha, while outlining what it takes to make the cut for ITC’s Hospitality Management school, one of the top hospitality institute in India, pointed that less than two per cent of boys and girls who are interviewed actually become Management Trainee. “We look at the right service orientation. We not only want you to anticipate the needs of the customer, we also expect you to understand the desires and needs of the customer when they have not asked for it also,” Sinha said.

Furthermore, he advocated a “tsunami of change in Indian education system, especially in hotels and hospitality.” He said that the catering college institutes need to focus on two key aspects. “One is to educate the boys and girls who are just 17-18 year old. A lot of focus also needs to get into the people who are teaching because they also need to be contemporary. If you ask me, like there is internship for boys and girls, there should be permanent internship every year for the faculty with the industry.”

He also advocated the need of reverse mentoring. “We need to look at the youngsters and need to learn from them and then we should guide them. We might be senior by age, but the millennial are much more superior to us with respect to knowledge, IT, social media and they are the future customers for us. So its important for us to listen to them also,” said Sinha. He also drew attention of stakeholders to the fact India is a very young country and now is the time to make use of the “demographic dividend” or the opportunity is lost.

While outlining the course curriculum and system of education, Seth said that the turn off is really seen when the students proceed for their industrial training when they see the industry. “We have seen major trend of students deciding to move off from the industry towards ancillary hospitality units,” she said and added that the technology savvy millennial, with a world of opportunity in front of them, starts looking at all the avenues of opportunities available to them with remuneration considerations, like career in cruise or retail sectors.

Highlighting the role and responsibility of Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council and the various platforms that it is helping develop to meet the demand, especially at the lower end of the pyramid, Sagar informed about the changes being introduced into the courses like Apprenticeship, Hunar Se Rozgar in order to enhance the employability of students enrolled in these courses. 

Sinha also suggested that students should be thorough in their research of the company they are applying to, are well groomed, have the right demeanour with great profile and understanding of the industry and are good at communication skills, especially in English, with right soft skills. Furthermore, as his parting words to the students of hospitality, he said, “The best only comes out when you challenge yourselves. In comfort no good happens.”

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