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Reshaping the Hospitality Education: Redefining the Internship Experience The approach to successful, structured internships has to be three-pronged strategy

By Dilip Puri

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What defines a good education? While there's no magic list of ingredients guaranteeing success, there are pedagogical approaches that help nurture students into well-rounded, critically thinking, flexible and future-ready graduates. And with a global landscape that's evolving as rapidly as hospitality, tourism and the allied sectors, these assets can certainly help provide the roadmap to a successful future.

Application of Practical Skills

One of the most invaluable ways to help students prepare for their careers, and life, is through the application of practical skills- be it internships, apprenticeships or even externships. Not only does a hands-on approach to learning help students gain a deeper understanding of their theoretical knowledge, it's their first foray into discovering a world that could shape the rest of their lives, which is why it's crucial to make the experience truly count.

Benefits of Internship in Hospitality Courses

In many vocational and business-oriented undergraduate programmes across the country, a very significant part of the education is industry internship opportunities provided to students that allow them to better understand their academic learning. Let's take, for example, a four-year hospitality undergraduate programme, in which a student does two internships of six months each. That means that 25% of their undergraduate education is in the form of real world experience.

This presents a real opportunity for companies to participate in the education process and to help shape the future of an entire industry by providing a fruitful and structured learning experience during a student's internship with them.

Some Companies Underutilize Student Interns

Unfortunately, a large number of companies do not share this worldview. Many underutilize student interns, failing to appreciate them as a resource, and do not provide them with any value adding learning during the internship. This phenomenon is often the cause for students to form a negative perception of not just the brand or company they interned with, but with the industry as a whole.

These same companies then go on to hire the same students after they complete their graduation, putting them through another two years of management training -- wasting precious time, effort, and money on something they could have done for a fraction of the cost, or even no cost at all, during the student's internship with them.

Structured Internship Three-pronged Strategy

The approach to successful, structured internships has to be three-pronged strategy with the learning institution, the company and the student all needing to become active, interested participants. The broader industry, along with academia, must frame and implement an internship policy which delivers measurable outcomes to the student's learning path.

To ensure internships truly develop as vital educational experiences for students, systems need to be put in place that monitor and provide oversight to internship education practices within companies. Through a synergetic relationship between academia and the industry, these systems would ensure students get the perfect dose of practical expertise and learning, while companies, just a few years down the line, get graduates who are passionate, adept and ready to fill roles without the need for lengthy and expensive retraining.

Students Stand the Risk of Being Wasted Potential

It is clear that today's young generation stand the risk of wasted or delayed potential due to lackluster practices in corporations and businesses, a risk that can be minimized with the right initiative. If they are to be brand ambassadors for the industry, they need to be nurtured and provided with an environment that ensures learning is full of fun, respect, and ready for tomorrow. With just a shift in perception, internships could give students experiences that determine the rest of their careers and the industry and allied sectors could gain loyal and invaluable talent that will help shape tomorrow's landscape.
Dilip Puri

Founder, Indian School of Hospitality

Dilip Puri is the Founder of Indian School of Hospitality.
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