THE-ICE members discuss the changing skills needs within the TH&E industry

THE-ICE members discuss the changing skills needs within the TH&E industry

Representatives from 11 THE-ICE member institutions across 7 countries joined THE-ICE Webinar Series 17: Future trends in the hospitality industry and the changing skills needs to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on the tourism, hospitality and events (TH&E) industry, specifically within the current and emerging workforce.

On Wednesday 5th April 2023 Dr Craig Thompson, CEO of THE-ICE, and Professor Peter Jones, Academic Director of eHotelier and Chair of the Professional Review Panel for the Institute of Hospitality, reviewed the results of an international research study conducted by eHotelierInstitute of Hospitality, and THE-ICE to better understand the future skills needs and ongoing challenges and change the TH&E industry is facing post pandemic.

Within these areas of discussion, the following key takeaways were highlighted:

The pandemic has had significant impact on the TH&E industry

  • The TH&E industry is becoming smaller and leaner and will continue to do so in the future due to the closure and downsizing of businesses.
  • Business models need to change to reflect the economic, social, and behavioral changes seen post-pandemic.
  • Technology will have an important role in the future of operations within businesses and will support staff in delivering service, however, will not replace the service.
  • Consumer pressure is forcing businesses within the TH&E industry to commit to sustainability and environmentally conscious practices.
  • Education and training need to shift to keep pace with the changes within the industry, as well as reconsider the curriculum to better reflect the skills needs for the future.

Recruitment and retention are, and will remain, the biggest single issue facing the TH&E industry over the next 5 years.

  • There has been a significant decrease in professionals within the TH&E industry as many individuals have changed industries, have found different forms of income, or have chosen not to come back to work post-pandemic.
  • For many professionals the pandemic has magnified the importance of having a work life balance, including focus on family values, home, health and wellbeing, and hobbies.
  • This creates an increased complexity of managing a more flexible workforce, as businesses may require more staff, or hire staff who work for multiple employers.
  • The TH&E industry is not attracting new entrants to replace those leaving, resulting in a greater cost of recruitment.
  • It can be seen that potential new staff do not have the professional skills for the industry, meaning that focus should shift to staff retention, and a greater investment is required in staff training and career development.

Skills needs for the future

  • It is evident that new and younger entrants to the TH&E industry expect a better work-life balance in their careers, which is a vastly different approach to previous generations.
  • The new workforce is seeking roles within organisations that align with their personal values, such as sustainability, corporate social responsibility, ethical standards, and employment practices.
  • Basic professional skills are vital in delivering the service expected by guests/customers, and these skill sets should be valued and developed appropriately.
  • The four (4) essential staff skills include professional, communication, customer/guest service, and financial.
  • The top five (5) skill sets that produce high standards of service:
    1. Communication and listening, ability to interact with guests.
    2. Cooperation with others, working in a team, and the ability to delegate.
    3. Problem solving, ability to understand, observe, and find an immediate solution.
    4. Creativity and innovation, relates to problem solving, taking initiative.
    5. Multi-skills including cultural and social awareness, planning and analysis, and language skills.

Training and education will need to develop to keep pace with the changes in the TH&E industry

  • It was found that higher education providers are not placing enough emphasis on students acquiring professional practical skills during their course of study. Current students may be able to understand the theory of customer service, however, are not able to put this into practice.
  • Survey respondents do not believe academic qualifications will be as relevant or essential for future staff as it has been historically. Rather, high importance will be placed on professional recognition, which includes professional development throughout their role.
  • Institutions need to consider whether their courses still offer vocational value sets, and how this can be made more relevant for the future students looking to work in the TH&E industry.
  • The pandemic has caused significant changes to the TH&E industry, yet education has not changed at the same pace, resulting in disparity between what institutions are teaching students and what businesses are searching for in new staff.

Members of THE-ICE institutions commented on their experience with the changing number of student applications, with majority claiming that these were declining. The following observations were also made during the discussion:

  • A representative from Dubai College of Tourism, United Arab Emirates, stated that their culinary course applications were growing, however, hospitality and tourism course applications were decreasing.
  • A representative from Torrens University, Australia, explained that their masters’ applications were remaining steady, however, undergraduate applications have seen a significant decrease.
  • A representative from Breda University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands, mentioned that their institution has seen a slight increase in their Hotel Management courses.
  • Professor Peter Jones explained that there has been a decrease in institutions that offer compulsory internships as part of their courses, even though internships are an important factor of employer recruitment strategies.
  • It was agreed that industry partners and academic staff/institutions need to cooperate in order to revive the TH&E industry, focusing on the needs of future employees and students.

The recording of the webinar can be accessed here.

Click here to view additional resources and information on upcoming webinars in THE-ICE Webinar Series.