Switzerland Country Report 2013

Vatel meets demand for hospitality workforce

Discovery Reports

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 4:54pm

The hallmark of a memorable hotel experience is excellent service. Behind the success of exceptional hotels are its staff, the people with an understanding and passion for true hospitality, and a dedication to flawless management.

As the first worldwide business school group in hospitality and tourism management, Vatel has been instrumental in providing talent to the world's top hotels for more than 31 years. These include the properties of Shangri-La and InterContinental.

Understanding the industry's bedrock values while adapting its curriculum to meet changing demands, Vatel provides 7,000 students with quality and personalised education across its 30 campuses in 21 countries.

"Vatel continues to successfully prepare students because we remain faithful to the hotel industry," says Yannick Jacquier, recruitment and student affairs manager of Vatel Switzerland. "We understand that service encompasses many things and we continue to invest in the education of our students, honing them to become adaptable in an international environment."

International adaptation begins in the classroom. Vatel Switzerland's student body of 350 represents 41 nationalities. The school maintains an intimate class size of a maximum of 25 students with diverse backgrounds, thanks to a very detailed selection process. "Just like the industry, you have to know who you are working with," Jacquier says.

The school's educational approach is holistic, balancing theory and practice. Vatel Switzerland's curriculum includes industry standard subjects combined with courses in soft skills such as nutrition, multicultural and conflict management and wine knowledge.

It also offers business-oriented subjects such as marketing, sales, human resource, economics and taxation.

Students are able to apply theory into practice at Vatel's own four-star hotel situated on campus in Valais - a distinct feature in Switzerland. It also provides regular internships with key hotel groups including Marriott, Hyatt and Four Seasons.

"Comprising 111 rooms and a strong convention facility, the Vatel Hotel gives students a proper feel for what they have been learning and allows them to apply this know-how to real situations. That is the secret of Vatel Switzerland, the possibility of cross-checking what they learn in classrooms on a regular basis in practical situations," Jacquier says.

Another secret is Vatel's integration of technology. It is becoming one of the most technologically advanced hospitality schools, thanks to Samsung tablets that Vatel Switzerland provides to students. The tablets contain textbooks, e-mail, calendars and access to Cyberlibris, Vatel's library of 13,600 books on various subjects.

"This decision to use tablets will allow us to reduce our carbon footprint while reaching out to the needs of the Y generation, the managers of tomorrow who have been brought up with smartphones and tablets, and who will be in charge of hotels that integrate the latest technology," Jacquier says.

Vatel Switzerland has also been approached by Idiap Research Institute, which is active in the area of multimedia information management, for the development of an interface that will soon allow potential students to be assessed on non-verbal communication through web camera interviews. This will enable students to refine their body language and enhance their interview performance for future job prospects.

Through Vatel's 25,000-strong alumni network, existing students gain access to exclusive internships. Recent graduates can tap into an active and supportive global network made of several clubs for knowledge exchange and job opportunities.

"Eighty per cent of our graduates go into the hotel business," Jacquier says. "However, our job in Vatel doesn't stop when our students graduate. In this respect, our alumni network is incredibly important.

They are our ambassadors and potential employers for our future students."

Vatel's Shanghai alumni chapter is one of the most active alumni networks and meets monthly. Its annual event - the High Club Evening - takes place each year in China and draws Vatel students and alumni from all over Asia.

The robust growth of Asia's hospitality industry offers a lot of employment opportunities for Vatel students. The school plans to expand its representative office in Shanghai to intensify its presence in Asia and allow prospective Chinese and Asian students to learn more about Vatel.

"Asia is a key region in terms of employment. The development of the hotel industry is very fast, and the demand for qualified staff is high. Vatel is here to answer that demand," Jacquier says. "The hotel industry is our first client after all."