Career expectations and requirements of undergraduate hospitality students and the hospitality industry: an analysis of differences

Kim, Jung Hee (Ginny)
Poulston, Jill
Harkison, Tracy
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Master of International Hospitality Management
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Auckland University of Technology

The hospitality industry has seen rapid growth through the last three decades. The hospitality industry in New Zealand is still growing steadily. According to the Ministry of Tourism (2008, para. 3), “Visitor expenditure is forecast (from 2008 to 2014) to increase from $13.73 billion to $19.05 billion per annum, an increase of 41.4%” (Ministry of tourism, 2008b). Therefore, in response to the needs of the industry, training providers have established a number of hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism degrees (O'Mahony & Sillitoe, 2001). However, previous studies have identified that hospitality management degrees tend to lack importance in the actual world (Harkison, 2004a, 2004b; Steele; 2003). Hospitality management students seem to rate the value of their degrees higher than do employees in the industry (Collins, 2002; Raybould & Wilkins, 2005). Therefore, there are gaps between the expectations and assumptions of students and those of hospitality professionals, which have led to problems in the hospitality industry.

This study has taken three steps to identify: 1) how career expectations, assumptions and requirements differ between undergraduate hospitality management students and management employees in the hospitality industry; 2) The working histories of managerial employees and their perceptions of the industry’s needs; 3) Establish the perceived value of hospitality management degrees amongst hospitality management undergraduate students and the hospitality industry. To do so, a comprehensive literature review was undertaken, and questionnaires were collected from 137 undergraduates enrolled in a Bachelor of International Hospitality Management degree at AUT University and 74 managerial employees in the hotel industry. After an analysis of the data, the researcher examined and compared the results of both groups’ data with relation to the findings of the literature review.

The following key points emerged from the research: most students expected that they would work in the hospitality industry after completing their course and supposed that their first work field would be in a Food and Beverage department at a management trainee level. The results of the survey show a match between students’ long-term career expectations and the working history of employees. Students also seem to understand the environment of the hospitality industry well. These results show that students organise well, planning for their future careers, and these results were similar with those of some previous studies (Brien, 2004; Harkison, 2004b; Jenkins, 2001). The results of this study identified similarities and differences of perceptions between undergraduate students and managerial employees in the hotel industry. Similarities of students’ perceptions and managerial employees’ perceptions are; • Commitment is rated as the most important factor in determining success, while personality is rated the most important attribute for an employee in the hospitality industry. • A degree in hospitality management is not recognised as an important qualification by students or employee respondents. Working experience is more important than a bachelor degree of hospitality management for a prospective employee. • Students and managerial employees believe that the hospitality educators know the industry well, although educators and employees have different understandings of career expectations. • Both parties believe that internship might help hospitality students’ careers in the industry. Differences of perceptions between undergraduate students and managerial employees are; • Students believe that knowledge of the industry and experience are the most significant factors for a new employee in the hospitality industry but employees indicate personality. • Employees believe that using initiative skills are the most important factor for an employee’s career development, whereas students answer communication skills. • Students believe that a hospitality management bachelor degree will contribute more to the hotel business but employees believe that having three years’ experience will contribute more. • Students consider that an employee with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality will receive higher starting salaries than someone without, but employees disagree. • Students suggest that a bachelor of hospitality management degree will affect opportunities for promotion, but employees do not share that opinion. This study found that even if students and managerial employees share some common opinions, many gaps still exist between them. Therefore, the researcher suggests recommendations relating to students’ expectations and assumptions of their job entry level, the working environment in the hospitality industry, the needs of the hospitality industry, and the value of a bachelors degree of hospitality management. Furthermore, the researcher identifies some limitations of this study and areas for further research.

Career expectations of hospitality students , Career requirements of hospitality managers , Hospitality management students , Hospitality industry , Profile of hospitality managers , Questionnaire survey method
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