The issue of higher education and its relation to working life of graduates has been intensely discussed since the beginning of the 1990´s. Generally there have been constant complains about an alleged mismatch between graduate competence and competence required by potential employers.Tourism employers often recruit non-tourism graduates (for example, graduates in business studies) who are able to demonstrate the generic skills required for a vocation in tourism (Dale & Robinson, 2001). Once recruited, the employer might have to train the graduate in specialist skills that have not been directly taught on their programme of study. Cooper and Westlake (1998) recognise that curriculum planning of tourism courses ‘involves the need to demonstrate efficiency, flexibility and responsiveness to stakeholders’. Thus, in recent years, there has been a drive towards a more coherent approach to the content of tourism education, focusing on the need for the student to learn how to learn and be flexible (Christou, 1999).
The tourism industry has grown world-wide which has created new jobs within the sector. But as Bibbings (2001) has done in UK, the following questions can be put: what jobs are these, and are the courses offered in higher education actually supplying the industry with graduates who have the attributes that employers need, in order to achieve the quality required to compete?...The majority of businesses are SMEs with a much smaller number of big players. So when these businesses are looking for employees, what are they looking for? Do they want graduates? Do they want tourism generalists, or graduates with a functional speciality e.g. marketing? Do they know what a tourism graduate can do? Is it possible to profile a tourism graduate’? Do graduates need the same skills for every type of job in the tourism industry? What is it that students value about their courses? ‘Tourism’covers a broad span of sectors within its overall umbrella, and herefore it is difficult to generate one answer to these questions (Bibbings, 2001, p.12).
In literature, several suggestions concerning enhancement of skills in relation to employability can be found, from special modules directed towards isolated skills, revisions of syllabi to identify skill aspects and non cognitive skill assessment to incorporation of working life experiences as well as sharp projects in organizations done by students and organizational representatives. According to Harvey 2000) the problem is that it is not about how skill training is delivered, but about an integrated learning process in a wider context. It is neither about delivering skills in a general sense but about the development of approaches to critical thinking and lifelong learning. Employability is only one part of this.
Specialisation in tourism education would contribute towards building closer relationships between employers and institutions, enabling network management and communication between tourism stakeholders. Employers would gain from being able to recruit graduates who have acquired a combination of generic and value-adding specialist skills, thus enhancing the overall tourism experience for consumers (Dale & Robinson, 2001). Providing students with the opportunities to gain the necessary skills, knowledge, understanding and attributes is obviously important, but so too is providing opportunities for reflection on and evaluation of the learning experiences that have taken place. Despite the importance of tourism as an economic sector, as described before, tourism degree studies are discussed in relation to five basic issues in the literature: • A lack of agreement on the content of tourism syllabuses, which leads to confusion on the part of applicants to courses, students and potential employers and a lack of professional recognition (Airey & Johnson, 1999; Ernawati, 2003). (This is reflected in the discussion around the value of general...