Home > The Chef > The relevance of education in the hospitality industry

Cesar Ritz, the man the iconic chain is named after, began as a waiter in Paris and Mohan Singh Oberoi started his career as a bellboy at The Cecil in Shimla, India. Karyn Williams-Sykes explains the importance of building on raw skill

One of the most inspirational facts about working in the hospitality industry is that you can start at the bottom of the ranks and work your way up. Many a General Manager or Executive Chef can tell you of his/her days as a busboy or a waiter or even a pot washer. Legendary names like: Cesar Ritz (yes the man the iconic chain is named after), began as a waiter in Paris; or Mohan Singh Oberoi who started his career as a bellboy at The Cecil in Shimla, India – he would later purchase this hotel and it would become the foundation of the now international Oberoi Hotels Group.

This dynamic industry, labour intensive at every level and in all departments, always has room for everyone. It has always attracted the aspiring actor, the off commission artist and the up and coming blogger-cum-award winning journalist who is just waiting for that lucky break. And there is still room for the high school dropout, the vocational graduate and even the undergraduate who is unsure about their career path. But not all of these make it to the top – many don’t stick it out and the transients were not ever planning to stay in the first place. So why should anyone bother to actually study hospitality? Why invest in a BSc Hotel Management or a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Hospitality Management? Why attend professional development programmes?

The answer – very simply put – is because times have changed. If you are interested in growing your career and making it to the top, more will be required of you than the raw skills you started off with.

While it is extremely important to have real, hands-on experience in the work of the business, it is also now vital to have formal training and solid business knowledge. The ideal degree programme for hospitality studies must be based on a balance of classroom with job placements/internships. The academic training will expose you to international benchmarks and industry best practices. It would be impossible to work at every top ranked hotel/resort in the world, but it is not impossible to learn about what they do and of equal importance, what they do not do.

There are many people currently working in hotels and climbing those ladders, with real life challenges of family, utility bills, kids’ education etc. How is it possible to get back to education and again, does it even matter? Yes it does!

Look around you and take note – Ritz-Carlton, The Oberoi, they are hiring degree qualified managers younger than you who will move faster than you if you do not keep up! The industry is dynamic, ever changing, constantly reinventing itself.

There are new markets and new methods to attract the guests; new technology; new systems and processes. Are you up-to-date?
Continuous professional development is essential! Take advantages of the many options of professional development programmes – short courses; part time modules; online programmes. Adult self-development and intellectual growth oftentimes involve sacrifice; you have to give a little but in return you will get so much.

There are quite a few hospitality degrees now available online, which will allow you to continue working and with some time management and dedication you can add that valuable certificate to your hands-on experience.

You can also work through a series of short professional certificate courses that may lead up to qualifying for a higher degree. Programmes can be modular and blended (i.e. a combination of online, face-to-face, distance learning).

Push your internal Training and/or Learning and Development Department to provide professional programmes, either in-house or externally. Hotels should be providing programmes or access to programmes for the continuous growth of their teams. Investing in your human resources is an investment in the business in a very real sense.


By Karyn Williams-Sykes, Director of Professional Training and Development, The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.

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