Over the past couple of years the Australian Minister of Education, The Hon Simon Birmingham has complained about the employment rate of university graduates. All too often students are paying for their education and working hard to graduate, but are then not able to find a job. He has insisted that universities improve their act.
At ICHM we follow the employment of our graduates carefully. We survey all of them in the month before the Graduation Ceremony, which is 8–12 weeks after their final examinations.
We want to know what they are doing: working, further study, holidaying, or looking for work. In 2015 we had only two looking for work—out of about 100 graduating. In 2016 we had no students looking for work. And in 2017 we had four students looking for work (again, out of about 100–120 graduating).
Let us reflect on the ICHM program and consider what we do, and possibly look for the differences between ICHM’s Swiss Hotel Association model and the standard Australian degree.
The starting point is our industry placement system. Each year ICHM students spend 50% of their time in a work placement. We arrange jobs in hotels in Australia and around the world. While we arrange the interviews, the students need to win the positions. There is no guarantee, but with good preparation and supervision our students are invariably successful.
Before they can return to their studies at ICHM, students must have successfully completed their placement. They must act in the manner that the hotel would expect. Again, we do not leave this to chance, and our Industry and Career Development managers are in regular contact by phone and email and most students on placement in Australia can expect a visit from a Manager once a semester.
While the academic program at ICHM is a business degree, the first year at ICHM includes the practical skills of the hospitality industry—restaurant management, kitchen, housekeeping and front office. Thus, the students are well prepared for their work.
Professionalism is given attention—dress, punctuality, cultural awareness and attitude. Nothing is left to chance!
After two, three, or even four placements it is not surprising that our graduates are snapped up by the hospitality industry.
Of course we want to be sure that the students know what they getting themselves into. The hospitality industry is not for everyone. But with interviews, open days, campus visits and our famous Career Week twice a year, students are well prepared. In 2017 the Australian regulator published data showing ICHM’s ‘Year 1 Attrition Rate’ was 12%, ranking it amongst the best of all Australian universities and other higher education providers.
Suffice to say, ICHM students know what they are getting themselves into, and once they begin their studies they continue on and graduate.
We are fortunate in that the hospitality industry is booming. In Australia, in Asia, and around the world the number of travellers is at record levels. Led by China’s population of 150 million overseas travellers, more and more Asians now have the money to travel. But cashed-up baby-boomers are also travelling in increased numbers. This is leading to more hotels being built, and a significant growth in jobs.
On graduation 80% of our graduates will get their first job in a hotel. But after 5 years this number will drop to 50% as graduates leave hotels and join other businesses in marketing, finance, IT, and consulting. Some start their own businesses as entrepreneurs.
However, we can never rest on our laurels as we try to equip our students for the world that awaits them after ICHM. In 2016 we started a Career Fair in Adelaide, inviting 20–30 Australian hospitality industry employers to Adelaide to interview students.
We continue to invite graduates and other industry experts back to Adelaide to meet our students and to share the secrets of their success.
As Chief Executive of ICHM and a board member of EUHOFA, the world’s oldest hotel school association, I meet other directors of the world’s major hotel schools to compare notes, to discuss trends, and to hear what they are doing. Of course we meet top hoteliers to listen to their needs and hear their suggestions as well.
ICHM spends significant effort preparing our graduates for work in the hospitality industry and beyond; and it is not by chance that they are so successful with their employment outcomes.