With an enviable rate of five job offers per MA candidate, the Swiss Hotel Management School offers students an exciting future
After completing his degree in politics at the University of Southampton, Augustus Taylor decided his future lay elsewhere and was keen to turn his interest in people, human nature and “why we do the things we do” into a career instead.
Hospitality seemed like the perfect industry to feed this interest, so he started researching the best places to study.
“Three of the top five ranked hospitality schools are in Switzerland,” he explains, “and you need to go where the reputation is, to get the best possible experience. I wanted to experience something new and meet people from everywhere – Vietnam, China, Portugal.”
With his ambition clear, Taylor took up a place on the Master of Arts in International Hospitality Business Management at the Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS), which currently ranks third in the world for hospitality and leisure management.
Set in two spectacular historic hotels – Caux Palace, a 120-year-old turreted grande dame of a building on a mountainside above the resort of Montreux, and the Mont-Blanc Palace in the nearby ski resort of Leysin – SHMS attracts an elite and diverse cohort of students.
Only about half of the MA candidates have had previous hospitality experience. The prerequisite for the MA programme is either a bachelor’s degree in any subject (with a minimum of 2.2 hons) or five years’ work experience at a managerial or supervisory level in the hospitality industry.
The number of people with industry experience who embark on the programme is on the rise, says Nektarios Lykopantis, the MA’s programme manager, who has worked as general manager in luxury boutique hotels, and as director of food and beverage for a consultancy.
“I have been on the programme for seven years,” he explains, observing that the number of people with a professional background is growing. “They have seen that this programme helps people to get ahead,” he adds.
He stresses that it’s a programme that really has to deliver. “We have an age range from 24 to 52, so you can imagine how high their expectations are,” he says. “You are already a manager, so you want to learn more and develop more skills.”
The one-year MA programme includes six months on campus and a six-month internship, and it is accredited with the University of Derby, meaning that graduates get degrees from both institutions.
Classroom teaching focuses on subjects such as hotel operations management, marketing, and developing business leadership skills. But the lessons rely on practical experience, too. In food and beverage management, students learn theory, prepare a business proposal and run a restaurant – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner – for the school’s population of 500 staff and students.
As Taylor explains, the real-world business cases and hands-on learning in the MA helped him develop practical skills for the workplace. “From day one, we focused on which avenue we wanted to go down professionally. The careers support at SHMS is fantastic – they really help you build your CV.
“All of the lecturers have experience in different industries, and the careers team were very hands-on. They have lots of contacts and I was amazed that they could find a fit for every person.”
According to the school’s records, 97 per cent of the MA cohort receive multiple job offers on graduation – as sommeliers, events managers, on cruise ships, with hotels or airlines. A few years after graduation, 90 per cent hold managerial positions or have started their own company, according to SHMS.
The intensity of the programme and the networking opportunities keep students focused on the working world. Taylor explains: “They have an international recruitment forum each semester, which brings in lots of businesses from around the world. It’s the best platform to meet people from places like Rosewood, Marriott, Hilton, and lots of smaller businesses, too.”
Following the classroom portion of the programme, students take up internships around the world to gain practical experience. Just under half of those internships are based in Switzerland, while just over one in 10 pursue US internships, with about the same number heading to the United Arab Emirates. The rest pursue work experience in hotels based across the world, from the Maldives to Thailand to Hong Kong.
Both the practical nature of classroom teaching and the rich real-life experience gained from the internships combine to make MA candidates eminently employable, says Dr Dominic Szambowski, dean of SHMS, who has a PhD in education from the University of Sydney.
“There are hotel programmes around the world that are all from the book,” he observes. And many of them, he adds, are very good. “But would you trust a doctor who learned just from the book?”
Having worked previously in hotel schools across the US, Australia and Asia, he characterises SHMS’s MA as “total immersion” as well as a bootcamp. “The students live above the shop,” he adds, “so there’s a community focused on all aspects of hospitality.” Lots of other hotel schools, he observes, are sucked into business schools, meaning that students miss out on learning practical skills.
These internships offer valuable employment experience and practical steps towards full-time roles, in which MA graduates might earn from around £3,700 per month in Switzerland, or £5,400 per month in tax-free Dubai.
“For me, I would say going there saved me three or four years of work experience,” Taylor says. “I’ve had jobs that people who haven’t taken that MA are now taking up, when they are in their early thirties. I’m 26. I wanted to accelerate quickly, so doing the MA was helpful.”
Today, Taylor is events and groups manager at the Marriott County Hall, just across Westminster Bridge from the Houses of Parliament. After his studies in Switzerland, he joined a management traineeship at the Kempinski in Austria, moving on to be a banquet manager at Cliveden House in Berkshire. From there, he moved to the May Fair Hotel, as events manager, and then moved into sales and planning at the Marriott.
He credits SHMS with giving him the education and contacts he needed to succeed, and says he regularly calls on peers who he met via the SHMS jobs fair: “I have a broad range of contacts and friends, and it’s helped with my career to understand the different requirements of international clients. You have to customise your treatment depending on where people are from. Hospitality can have too much of a closed mind as an industry; going to do the MA in Switzerland made me more adaptable.”
Source : Telegraph