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"Place yourself outside of your comfort zone" Benjamin-Thibault Chevalier Academic Manager MSC programmes Ferrandi Paris

In our special Hospitality ON issue on hospitality management schools and trainings (No 308-309/May-June 2021) we interviewed Academic Directors of renowned hotel schools around the world. Here we unveil insights from Benjamin-Thibault Chevalier Academic Manager Msc programmes Ferrandi Paris.

What innovations, programmes and projects have been implemented in your school over the last two years?

Hospitality Lab: creation of a 11- week consultancy project led by our 3rd year of Bachelor specialized in Hospitality Management and connecting professionals to students through operational challenges to solve. It looks like all other consultancy projects but since it lasts 11 weeks, it allows students to be completely part of a hotel team and solve complex issues.

Also, they are coached by 15 to 20 professionals with different backgrounds to make sure the recommendations made by the end of the 11 weeks are in line with any Professional Consultant recommendation. In terms of figures and financial results, return on investment, and operational processes in line with regulations and brand standards.

International development: since we are now recognized for 100 years in the Gastronomy and Culinary Arts fields, it was a priority for us to develop our international partnerships with recognized universities and business schools in the Hospitality Management 

field to gain in terms of reputation and know-how. We nowadays send/ receive students and share academic knowledges with these entities on a regular basis.

Career Booster: a specific plan created to coach and lead our high programs students to the independence and autonomy on the job market. Project lead by a Hospitality Headhunter [Severin Ferrand] who personally follows each student with personalized coaching sessions, peers’ conferences and group workshops. Again, it may look like a Career Center. It is, however, an upgraded one, with a HR expert directly and personally coaching and accompanying our students like he could do with a 5-to- 10-year-experienced professional.

What approach(es) has your school chosen to train its students? What are the specificities of your schools?

This is particularly important for our students to feel personally accompanied and grow with confidence. To do so, we especially focus on:

Learning by doing,
Being as much operational as possible, using Business Games and applications on field,
Shadowing with professionals and peers,
Drive projects in groups.

We make sure they work on their judgment, curiosity, that they challenge themselves and understand what teamwork means.

In terms of internships, students are not placed but guided on the market to improve their judgement, ability to sell themselves, select offers and make sure they do follow their career plans and do not put too much of unadapted emotions in their professional choices.

Has the COVID-19 crisis impacted the students interest in the hospitality industry?

Our students look as motivated as they were before the crisis: they understand the market will be reborn in a few months with completely different trends, types of consumption and way of living the hospitality experience.

We have been surprised to welcome as many applicants as previous years on our MSc program: it demonstrates the continuing interest from this population of enthusiasts to develop projects in the hospitality industry.

What values / skills do you think are necessary for the hospitality industry that should be taught in a hotel school?

Curiosity would be the first word to come to my mind. Curiosity towards the environment, the people you are working with, the clients, everything. The second skill that needs to be taught is the ability to reassess: think from another point of view, from a different angle, with another perspective. That is an incredible chance for the hospitality industry to get inspired from other industries. And this leads to the third mandatory value: Open- Mindedness.

This one also refers to the acceptance of any differences, and to place yourself outside of your comfort zone. At last, I would say that the Listening ability remains one of the most important: because we are a service industry and listening is one of the key factors for an effective communication.

What do you think hoteliers need to do to attract & keep young talent?

Students needs to feel listened, understood and their ideas considered seriously. They actually have great ideas, and a way of perceiving life and things differently than previous generations. They learn fast, challenge fast and want to grow fast as well. It is our role to accompany them in this wonderful journey of discovering operations first, understanding clients and the fact that 99% of the revenue in our sector is generated by operations. Everything needs to be done step by step before considering managerial positions. And to make sure we keep them, we have to think like other industries and re-think the way this industry is sometimes unfairly described: split shifts, low salaries, lack of task force, difficult conditions, etc.

What message would you give to hoteliers?

Continue to spread the passion to our young generations and share experiences and knowledge with them! Our students need hotel to open their doors and offer great projects and opportunities to work on. And hoteliers need these young folks to keep being competitive, adapt to the trends and be in line with technologies and innovations.

What message would you give to future generations?

Be patient. Patience is the mother of all virtues and I have never met anyone working hard and by the end of the story, not being rewarded in a way or another.

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