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Mon 21 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

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Training day

Caterer talks to undergraduates at the Emirates Academy, their educators and future employers to find out how the industry's next generation is faring in the classroom.

Caterer talks to undergraduates at the Emirates Academy, their educators and future employers to find out how the industry's next generation is faring in the classroom.

Emirates Academy is becoming one of the leading hotel schools in the hospitality industry, working in academic association with Swiss flagship hotel school, L'Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne.

In its seventh year of operation, the academy's popularity among local an international students continues to grow, reaching its total capacity intake of 110 students this year.

The academy only accepts a limited number of students each semester in order to maintain its high standard of attainment, and also to continue the personable relationship between the faculty and students, explains Emirates Academy dean Dr Stuart Jauncey.

"Students that come here have to have university-level entrance qualifications. They also have to pass an English language test and have an interview with myself, the managing director or one of the other faculty members."

"This stringent entry process makes sure that students have an interest and commitment to the industry before they come here," he adds.

With an increased interest in hospitality degrees in the region, it is likely the academy will have a waiting list this October.

"It's very interesting because across Europe the number of applicants for hotel degrees is actually falling, whereas here we've gone right up to our 110 capacity limit," says Jauncey.

He attributes the popularity of courses at the academy largely to its location and the career opportunities available to the graduating students.

"The best students that graduate are offered places in Jumeriah, if they wish to take them, and if you're going to study hotels, where else in the world could you hope to gain this sort of experience?" he asks.
People placement

As part of the curriculum, students have to undertake a placement of their choosing in the industry, to gain experience in the field, which is becoming more challenging to arrange explains Jauncey.

"As more students enroll in the academy, placement is getting more demanding."

"We have a new liaison officer who is developing a database of four- and five-star establishments globally that we have links with and that we've quality-assured to make sure the students are looked after when they go there."

"However, students have to have a contract and plan of activities before we authorise their internship," explains Jauncey.

Second year international hospitality management student, Fadi Lebbos, undertook his placement at the Al Murooj Rotana Hotel & Suites as part of the front office team.

"The aspect of training I enjoyed the most was being able to follow the duty managers from different departments and different shifts, helping them write audits and reports for the general manager."

"It's great that throughout their busy schedules, the management staff still make the time and the effort to explain everything that we need understand. It's been a really fantastic experience for me," Lebbos says.

Trainees are given experience in all sections of management explains Al Murooj front office manager Michael Kempf.

"They are trained in reception, concierge, driving, guest relations, Club Rotana, the business center and telephone operations to give them a complete overview of front office management," he says.
The students are usually posted for a six-month placement and have full working days to give them a taste of real life Kempf says.

"They are getting live experience and this is most helpful in order to get a real feeling of how it is to work in the hospitality industry."

"They learn to work with different nationalities, get to know how to handle guest complaints and how to behave in busy operations."

So far, Kempf concedes that the Al Murooj has not received many students from other international hospitality schools and so he cannot compare the abilities of the various graduates.

"The biggest challenge of integrating students into a real workplace environment is always getting them used to handling busy operations and the ability to deal with difficult situations right away," says Kempf.

"However, students that study locally are already familiar with the region, which is a great advantage in giving information to guests."

"This helps them get off to an easier start and is also better for the hotel, as staff members that have already done an internship at the property are more familiar with the property and basic job functions," he says.

Looking to the future

With a steady intake of students and a greater exposure in the hospitality school environment, the academy plans to branch out its courses to include specialisms says Jauncey.

"With the re-structuring of the current system, it opens up the opportunity for students to have a specialism named in their degree, such human resource management, hospitality finance, events planning or tourism, for example.

"We would also like to eventually offer more European languages and develop further industry links."

"We have big plans in place for the next two years and we are looking forward to seeing our students continue to excel in the workforce," he concludes.

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