Interview with Alain Sebban, Founder of Vatel.
What is the DNA of Vatel?
Vatel's DNA is rooted in our values:
Sharing: knowledge; information; values... going beyond our cultures and beliefs
Openness: towards others, towards ideas, towards new horizons, towards the international scene
Commitment: to see projects through to completion, to bring each student to success, to always put people at the centre of our decisions
Whether we are students, teachers, employees or graduates, these three values serve our decisions and choices.
To these 3 fundamental values, we have added 2 behavioural values: respect and kindness.
These values were redefined by the directors of the 55 Vatel campuses around the world at the time of the group's 40th anniversary celebrations. They will take physical shape through a work of art to be installed in the lobby of each Vatel school.
From a pedagogical point of view, Vatel's DNA is made up of 3 founding pillars:
- The alternation of theory and practicality, which is essential for a better assimilation of what is taught.
- For real-life application - hotels, restaurants, cafés and catering services that welcome real customers and thus place the student in real professional conditions.
- International: 53 Vatel campuses around the world, the Marco Polo student exchange programme, the compulsory 2nd year internship abroad, a choice of 23 Vatel destinations that offer MBAs, 11 specialisations offered in the final year of the MBA.
What is the role of a hotel school for you and has it changed over the years?
The role of a hotel school is to ensure that the profile of its graduates perfectly matches the needs of the profession.
Consequently, it must always be attentive to the needs of professionals and to the evolution of roles and sectors. From this point of view, Vatel draws great strength from the close links it has been able to forge with the profession for over 40 years.
At the same time, the hotel school must get to know each of its students well in order to help them grow and to help them formulate their professional project and ensure that it is in line with the industry.
Do you intend to reach out more to working employees through continuing education?
We have already started to do that! A "Finance for Executives in Hospitality Industry" programme was set up jointly by NEOMA Business School and Vatel Switzerland. Other programmes have been set up in Vatel schools in Mauritius, Madrid and Suzhou, to name a few.
Have you considered mixing active employees and students in your programmes?
At Vatel, we consider that these are different audiences. The way we educate a young graduate is not the same as for a professional who has already acquired a lot of experience. Each audience has its own teaching conditions, its own progression in the acquisition of knowledge, its own pace of work... At Vatel, the pedagogy, the pace and the teaching tools are adapted to the learner's profile and not the other way around.
Have you strengthened your links with professionals in the sector over the last two years?
Yes, without a doubt. We are always very supportive. To give you an example: in the spring of 2020, borders were closed, and we all found ourselves in a position of great uncertainty. We called upon professionals to help ensure that all our students could do their internship and they responded to the call. In France alone, we managed to place 1,200 students on internships.
In return, we are now working on a medium-term project to revive the technical professions in the hotel and restaurant industries. We see that employees are leaving the sector all over world and that the hotel industry must be given help to get through this period without too much disruption.
Have you noticed the arrival of new profiles in your student body?
They are more connected, more attentive to their parents' advice and more anxious as well.
However, they still look at the opportunities possible before choosing a job; they still have the enthusiasm of youth; they want to travel more than ever; and last but not least, they are more involved than previous generations in societal issues such as inequality, racism, ecology... It is very exciting to work with this young generation.
What changes have you and the teachers noticed in students' expectations as regards training or employment in the face of recent societal changes?
Above all, they are concerned about the very fragile balance between professional and private life. They are not prepared to sacrifice one for the other.
What innovative programmes and projects are you currently implementing?
In addition to initial education, we have set up sandwich courses. In 2022, we reserved this option for our Bachelor's graduates who wanted to pursue an MBA. But from the start of the 2023 academic year, we will open it up to students preparing their Bachelor's degree.
Another project on which the group is working, and which will see the light of day in the months and years to come, is the creation of schools under the Vatel Academy brand. In France alone, we plan to open 20 schools that will train young people in highly operational professions such as restaurant service, cooking, baking and hospitality.
The teaching at Vatel Academy will be built around the group's values. It will also be based on the alternation of theory and practicality and on the hotels and restaurants we have within the school, which welcome real customers.
Why do you think students do not always enter the hotel industry despite their academic training?
This is not at all the case for students leaving Vatel. For several years we have observed that 80% of them remain in the hotel and tourism sector and we are very proud of this integration. Every year, we catch up with each of our recent graduates and we are delighted with the quality of the positions they have found after leaving the school. Here are a few examples of positions held by 2021 graduates:
- Bénédicte Thu Ha Lemercier: Learning & Development Coordinator at Conrad Bora Bora Nui
- Mathilde Taron: Purchasing Coordinator of Hôtel de Crillon Paris
- Bastien Deplanche: Director of Hotel des Roches Kourou, French Guiana
- Claire Chaussard: HR Coordinator at Mandarin Oriental Paris
- Baptiste Ducastel: Income Auditor at Bulgari Hotel Paris
Among the remaining 20%, some join sectors such as agri-food or personal services, for example. Many also create their own business.
What message would you like to send to professionals in the sector?
One of optimism! The young graduates arriving on the job market are enthusiastic, open, curious, enterprising and serious. They have a lot to contribute to any company that is willing to trust them and listen to them.
What messages would you like to send to the young people of today?
The hotel and catering sector offers a huge range of jobs. It allows those who join it to progress professionally without ever getting bored. This is important for the younger generation.
Hospitality jobs are also very rewarding. They are meaningful for those who want to put the human at the heart of what they do.
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