When students take on real-life experiences in a hotel

Over the course of 5 days, students from Taylor’s College and University had to overcome difficult situations and manage different roles within the hospitality industry as part of its ‘Step 2.0: Hotel Takeover Programme’

by LYDIA NATHAN/ pic credit: eduadvisor.my

SEVERAL years ago, having a degree was probably the one vital element to guarantee a job.

These days, employers are more interested in skills and experiences that could contribute to the company or elevate its status in the market.

But, are universities really churning out graduates with skills good enough to take on jobs and operate in the real world?

In an elaborate setting designed to test students’ skills, Taylor’s College and University partnered the Holiday Inn Express KLCC for its “Step 2.0: Hotel Takeover Programme”.

Over the course of five days, students had to overcome difficult situations and manage different roles within the hospitality industry.

Launched last year, the “Step 2.0: Hotel Takeover Programme” saw 38 students from the university’s bachelor of international hospitality management and diploma in hotel management courses taking part in the initiative.

Students had to deal with surprise simulations along the way, from smaller concerns dealing with customer complaints to more complicated and dangerous situations like armed robberies.

Taylor’s University School of Hospitality, Tourism, and Events head Dr Joaquim Dias Soeiro told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that it is imperative that students have these kinds of experiences as part of the university’s milestone to churn out students who are industry-ready and future-ready, prior to their graduation.

“Learning in a macro environment to practise and enhance the value of self-management, with the abilities to self-direct in managing the different stakeholders and situations are so important,” he said.

Soeiro said the setup was designed to be a unique learning experience through full immersion and direct mentorship from senior management positions in a hotel.

“The students had the opportunity to operate the hotel and manage the business under mentors, while practising and incorporating core values of the industry,” he said, adding that universities must prepare graduates for real challenges they will face one day.

“Their ability to adapt to working environments, be independent, and apply soft skills, and what they learned during their studies are examples of what they will face in the industry.

“Again, finding ways to ensure that our students are ready to face the industry and turn challenges into opportunities are part of our teaching and learning goals,” Soeiro said.

Experiences and Solutions

A student from the bachelor of international hospitality management course, Janet Koo, told TMR that she had been assigned to play the role of a finance manager.

She said part of her assignments included checking and reviewing financial reports and forecasting expenses.

“I had to prepare a profit and loss statement for the first quarter of Holiday Inn Express KLCC. I applied lessons learned through the accounting module and was able to accomplish the task of categorising different expenses to appropriate sections, while balancing the total amounts out.

“I took part in conference calls with other managers from other branches, and attended daily briefings with GMs and others. The experience of ‘working’ in a hotel in a managerial position was a golden opportunity I never found elsewhere,” she said.

Muhammed Namiq Rameez from the diploma in hotel management course said different simulations were planned throughout the days for the students to solve or fix.

The 20-year-old said these simulations included a sudden blackout, a front-desk robbery, a stolen television (TV) set and a customer complaint.

“Each of these took place while I was on my shift, and it was part of my duty to handle the situations. For example, in the case of the stolen television, me and another student playing the role of GM watched the CCTVs (closed-curcuit TVs) to see if the room’s last guest was captured leaving with the TV.

“When that didn’t pan out, we decided to check the last time someone scanned the room card in and out of the room. Using that information, we were able to determine who took it, including the time and where the person went,” he said.

The setup also led students to deal with daily issues any hotel faces, like language barriers between guests and front-end staff.

A diploma in hotel management student, Farel Trinanda Sigit was assigned to the front office department as a guest service agent. The task was to assist guests from different backgrounds check in and out, and cater to the guests’ needs.

“The main issue was the language barrier, so we tried to find a native speaker of the particular language and if we couldn’t, we explained very briefly to the guests, so there wouldn’t be any misunderstandings,” Farel said.

There was a scenario where one of the hotel’s staff pretended to be a robber while the guests were checking in.

“Although we knew it was just an actor, we managed the situation well enough. This was very helpful to us in case there was ever a real daylight robbery happening,” Farel said.

Positive Sessions

Additionally, Ayla Ahmed Khan said she had a good experience while on this setup, with one incident with the sales team.

“I had a meeting with the sales team, aiming to motivate them to begin a morning greeting session with guests, but the team wasn’t too keen on this. I was tasked to solve this problem, which I did, by explaining how it can boost sales and be a different advantage to the hotel brand,” Ayla said.

Meanwhile, Soeiro said the students were very positive towards the challenges faced over the week.

“They did initially have difficulty adapting from an educational to a working environment.

However, they presented a positive and dynamic behaviour that adhered to practices and procedures, while staying true to the core values of the hotel.

“They managed to solve problems either by collaborating with existing staff, brainstorming among peers or communicating with their teams, for instance. The students were very satisfied with their ‘out of classroom’ learning experience, immersed and embedded within the industry realities,” Soeiro said.