Need to curate internship

Need to curate internship

Internships are one of the most crucial parts of an education in hospitality sector. Internships are when theoretical learnings are put to test and applied in a real world working scenario. It offers an opportunity for students to take the first decisions regarding the direction of their career, which in turn will determine the rest of their professional lives. Internships should ideally enhance the knowledge and skills of students joining the industry. For too long, internships have accumulated negative connotations amongst both institutes and students.

Many a time, students are not given the opportunity to use their existing skills in an internship let alone gain new ones. Underutilised and most often treated like casual labour, it’s no surprise internships have left hospitality graduates with a bitter taste in their mouths. Brands that fail to carry out successful internships also suffer further down the line — shelling out time and resources to retrain graduates they failed to train well the first-time. Invalid corporate practices are contributing to a broken cycle that is producing graduates who are disillusioned with the industry and lack practical skills, leaving corporations with employees who need extensive retraining and reconditioning.

Studies have shown that students become less interested in joining hospitality as a first choice following their internships. Negative experiences tend to have a drastic impact on students’ perceptions of the hospitality industry while positive ones have only gone on to strengthen the enthusiasm and optimism of pursuing a career in the sector.

Achieving positive outcomes

A research carried out in 2012 shows that the two most important elements in a positive internship experience are the quality of planning that went into the internship and the level of industry involvement. This means that in order to pave the way for a positive, successful internship, it is crucial to plan the design of the programme and include means to measure the success of it through assignments and performance evaluations. With a mapped out outcome, the industry can then reach predetermined performance milestones at the end of the internship.

Another crucial counterpart is the support and consultation provided to the intern by their institute. With these two factors combined, the internship experience is now a curated programme with an outcome plan and supported by both institute and industry. This leads to a safe and supportive work environment for the intern.

How different is the outcome of a curated internship as opposed to a traditional, unstructured model? According to a study, high levels of training satisfaction amongst interns led to confidence in future career ambitions. Happy interns result in optimistic, happy graduates ready to pursue their ambitions in the industry.

Furthermore, a structured internship ensures that students gain a realistic glimpse into working life within hospitality. Research shows that many students entering the education stream fail to grasp the realistic working standards of traditional roles and can form negative connotations following an internship that failed to meet their expectations. Many individuals pursue hospitality education without a concrete professional outcome in mind. Add an unstructured internship experience to the fold and we’re looking at students who are even more confused and possibly put off from what awaits them following graduation. As part of a study, 34 hospitality students undergoing two stints of internships at an Australian university (of which the majority had no previous work experience) were surveyed before and after undergoing internships. Prior to the internship, some students had limited knowledge of the scope in the industry. Following the second internship, the same students displayed broader awareness on employability and career prospects.

Though the hospitality industry offers a lot of opportunities and career paths, it has demanding schedules, challenges and requires its employees to be flexible. Designing a new experience for students should ideally begin long before they even start their internships. A large part of talent pursuing the education is not fully aware of what lies ahead for them — which is why it is vital to bring more awareness about the nature of the industry, employment conditions, pay levels, promotion opportunities and distinct career paths. Following this, through a structured internship, students will have the chance to experience a slice of the real industry for themselves and determine their own ambitions. Hospitality, which is one of the most rewarding, colourful and fast paced industries, can also be one of the most demanding. Giving students a chance to experience a realistic glimpse of it enables them to make an informed, relevant decision that can determine the rest of their future and that of the industry. By curating internships, we’re moulding the students who are passionate and excited to be a part of hospitality to transform its landscape tomorrow.

(The author is with Indian School of Hospitality, Gurugram) 

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