Hotel Management Competencies

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Research paper


Hospitality management competencies: do faculty and students concur on employability skills? This paper is one in a series of establishing what competencies the various stakeholders (students, industry mentors, faculty) think are the ideal competencies needed by employees in the hospitality field in places such as hotels, food service providers, restaurants and lodges, compared to those actually displayed by hospitality management students. This particular paper reports on a comparison drawn between what the faculty and students believe are the ideal competencies compared to those that they actually have on completion of their academic studies, prior to the students engaging in their semester of work-integrated learning (WIL). The results would be used by faculty to focus on ensuring students are aware of the employability and management competencies they need (Hind, Moss & McKellan, 2007) in order to conduct themselves in the business world of hospitality with confidence and competently.

Key Words: Competencies, hospitality, soft skills, South Africa, work-integrated learning. Hospitality management competencies: do faculty and students concur on employability



In a developing country such as South Africa where the jobless rate is 23.1% of the labour force (4.1 million) (Mail & Guardian, 2008), it is expected that university graduates should be able to find employment but there are many who do not (Ntuli, 2007). The labour market oscillates between the skills shortage on one hand and the number of graduates who are without work on the other. It seems paradoxical that a country with a high unemployment rate, has graduates without work, and that professionals need to be imported or lured to the country. This situation may arise from the fact that students lack employability skills. Behavioural (soft) skills such as those gained through curricula that embed critical outcomes such as analytical skills, teamwork, organize and manage oneself, usually deliver more competent and employable graduates (Coll & Zegwaard, 2006).

Employers have indicated that students are often not prepared for the workplace and call on universities to produce more employable graduates (Barrie, 2006; Kember & Leung, 2005) by providing transferable skills that can be taken into the workplace (Smith, Clegg, Lawrence & Todd, 2007). Students’ subject matter knowledge is usually satisfactory (Crebert, Bates, Bell, Patrick & Cragnolini, 2004; Hind, Moss & McKellan, 2007) but by improving and developing their competencies such as interpersonal skills, teamwork, communication and problem solving skills, value will be added to their intellectual capabilities making them more employable (Hind et al., 2007; Maher & Graves, 2007). Employers are expecting graduates to be work-ready and demanding a range of competencies and qualities of them (Yorke & Harvey, 2005). Educational institutions should be critical of their programme offerings and question if they are nurturing the appropriate competencies and consider how best to ensure these are developed (Kember & Leung, 2005).

Competencies (the term which will be used in this paper for skills such as soft skills, behavioural skills, generic attributes), that are necessary in any field of work should be an important element in undergraduate programmes (Bath, Smith, Stein & Swann, 2004) and are the responsibility of higher educationalists to incorporate as part of their teaching and learning (Hind et al., 2007). According to Rainsbury, Hodges, Burchell & Lay (2002) the literature suggests that there is insufficient importance placed on the development of soft skills by many higher education institutions. It is not advised that competencies be taught as a form of a check list but be integrated and contextualized into a curriculum (Bath, et al., 2004). Employability skills need to be embedded not only in any one module but must be throughout the curriculum...
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