As the tourism industry recovers, and companies are facing difficulties in recruiting qualified staff post-Covid, ensuring quality jobs for graduates has become a primary concern for ASSET-H&C members.
In our last Annual Seminar in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 20 representatives from 12 member schools in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam had the chance to learn from experts and from one another through an open panel discussion on the topic. Read on and discover insightful perspectives from the representatives and industry stakeholders.
What is a quality job?
The session started off with an impossible question: ‘What is a quality job?’. “Impossible” because you’ll get different answers from every person you ask. Nevertheless, we took the opportunity to speak with experts to identify several common indicators.
Salary, working hours, time off, working conditions, fringe benefits (healthcare, pension scheme, equipment and various allowances: childcare, education, sports, accommodation, etc.) are five key indicators to define a quality job. In addition, learning and development, career perspectives, and a good onboarding process were also mentioned.
For Catherine Germier-Hamel, Chief Executive Officer from Destination Mekong, a quality job in tourism is not only a job that is framed by those indicators, but it is also one that improves and excels one’s attitude: striving for better, practising and integrating it into one’s mindset and lifestyle. “The indicators should be focusing on the quality of a person’s life and well-being”, said Catherine.
Andrew Pennington, Dean of Hospitality and Tourism at PSE (Cambodia), shifted the focus from the individual to the organization. Indicators such as job satisfaction, reputation and quality of the employer or establishment, and last but not least, their turnover rate can tell a great deal about the jobs on offer.
“It’s good to have some indicators for a quality job, but they can fall to a personal perception. Sometimes, as a school and an employer, we give our students and graduates what we perceive are good indicators, but they do not bring them satisfaction. For example, they may prefer to go back to their roots. Therefore, it is important to balance what we define as a quality job for us and what the students want; and make sure that students are aware of such a definition”, said Javier Almagro, Pedagogy Expert from IECD.
What are the skills required for a quality job?
“Attitude decides the quality of the job.”, said Jimmy Pham, founder of KOTO (Vietnam).
Jade Masigan, Director of Talent & Culture at Sofitel Siem Reap, concurred: “To start a job in tourism, staff should be equipped with the right attitude and expectation about the tourism sector: we have to work on weekends, holidays and late at night.” Understanding this is simple, but not all workers can accept and anticipate the challenges it may bring.
“English is a prerequisite”, added Jade. No matter which department or position they work in, English proficiency opens more opportunities and longer careers for employees.
The pandemic has really been an eye-opening event for the industry. For employees, to sustain their job in times of Covid, they need to be flexible and ready to do tasks in other departments. Being flexible and digitally literate are the new skills that are required to secure jobs and climb the career ladder.
It is also crucial to have other life skills such as leadership, teamwork, and communication.
What can schools do?
When asked if most of their students held quality employment, our members gave very honest and thought-provoking answers. Núria Domingo, School Programme Manager at HCTC (Thailand) shared that although students secured quality entry-level positions, mostly thanks to the school’s support, when they graduated, they did not stay with their employers as long as the school expected. This requires HCTC to shape its program to fit better to the missions and increase the number of alumni who keep their jobs for more than 5 years.
How can schools prepare their students? There are a few things that experts and ASSET-H&C members suggested to ensure quality jobs for students after graduation.
Recruitment and Managing expectations
From the school point of view, Jimmy Pham gave an interesting example of how KOTO recruits their students. “The school has a 4-stage recruitment process with a focus on determination and commitment to the training. We aim to give students a pathway, not just a job but also the option to go for higher education.”
When the students are placed for their internship and first jobs, it is important for schools and employers to consider their suitability for the job. [we need to] “Make sure a student’s profile matches the job we are training them for”, shared Jon Amiss, chairman of Sanon (Myanmar).
Jade, with many years of experience in HR at Sofitel, added: “It is important to motivate students to have a long-term vision by helping them understand the goals themselves, their opportunities and limitations”. Schools should also advise students on the pros and cons of the jobs.
“We as social projects should also manage employers’ expectations of our students. It is beneficial if employers are aware of our students’ background to be more patient and supportive of their development”, added Javier.
At HCTC, Núria shared that students are at the center of the learning. In all training activities, they involve students and make them the main characters. This can help to train and prepare students to be responsible for their own development when they go to work.
At EHT Paul Dubrule (Cambodia), Enrique Blanco, Projects & Communications Manager, shared that the school implements cross-department training to foster flexibility in students and help them understand what their colleagues are doing.
At La Boulangerie Française (Vietnam), Van Trinh, Project Manager, stated, the school regularly invites alumni back to guide, motivate students and promote the best values to be successful at work.
Jimmy at KOTO shared an example of improving the students’ life skills by putting those who came from a vulnerable background on the receiving end of the service industry: providing them with life experiences such as taking them to the theater or coffee shops. They can judge for themselves what is good and what could be done to provide a great service. They are inspired to go from “get a job” to “get the job”. Students also learn about their rights according to Labour Laws.
At PSE, the school prepares students psychologically via the apprenticeship program, which trains students in the reality of a workplace. “They can be stressed out by different personalities at work, and the fact that not everyone is nice. They must be prepared with the Life Skills to succeed, not just surviving the job, in such an environment too”, said Andrew. “To work in a demanding industry like tourism, students should be prepared with a strong mind, strong gut, big heart and empathy”, Jade added.
While adapting the training to equip youth with the neded skills, it is important to keep the balance across different departments of the school. “Staff need to grow in order to best accompany students’ growth. Professional development has to go with personal development.”, added Javier.
Sophany Mao from Spoons Cambodia Organization seconded this idea. “Trainers need to have social skills too. They have to go beyond the surface to identify potential factors that can affect students’ performance.”
Partnerships and Relationships with Employers
Schools can prepare quality skills and jobs for their graduates through partnerships and good relationships with employers.
At EHT Paul Dubrule, hotel representatives and relevant professionals are invited to their workshops to give students advice on how to do research about their future employers and how to choose suitable employers.
PSE gives an example of their “PSE Industry Advisory Board” initiative. The school identifies key industry people in different sectors to add values to the program, then signs a contract with each of them as an industry advisor. Once a year, the advisory board gets together to advise the schools on the curriculum, allowing the school to keep up to date.
Next to employers, other partners are also important.
EHT Paul Dubrule works with the International Labour Organization (ILO), which runs a ‘Decent Employment for Youth’ program. Within this program, the organization offers training and advice for students to prepare themselves for employment.
Supply and demand always go hand in hand. In this case, it is the Training of the future work force and the job market.
On this point, Catherine showed interest in being a partner to connect students with the market. “Destination Mekong does a lot of marketing and branding that is not just an added value for the business but also for the employer. With a focus on the strong values that the ASSET-H&C students bring to their employer, community, and society, we can also promote upskilling across different age –groups so that everyone can develop.”
“Let’s consider and involve the alumni through a strong alumni network too; they can be helpful to current students”, Jimmy added.
The extensive expert discussion embraced different perspectives from various angles on the same topic: How to prepare students for quality jobs? The definitions and needed skills listed by experts, best practices from member schools, and great ideas from all participants all made it a lively, open and insightful discussion. Everyone seemed to agree that a quality job is one that allows students to support themselves and their families, and to live a happier and more independent life.
ASSET-H&C as a network was proud to bring the experts and our members together at this annual seminar’s discussion to share and inspire one another, and many others beyond the network, to create an even greater impact on vulnerable youth and contribute to promoting sustainable tourism in the Southeast Asia region.