“An Investigation into the Perceived Value of Internships by both Hospitality Students and Industry Employers”
As the hospitality industry continues to demonstrate exponential growth, there is an increased demand for capable and well trained graduates to fulfil management and leadership roles. Employers are seeking graduates with a diversified, soft skills set which arguably, cannot be achieved through classroom learning. In order to bridge the vital gap between theory and practice, there has been increased recognition of the importance, of implementing internships within hospitality management education. A successful internship experience requires mutual agreement, understanding and cooperation between three key stakeholders: students, educators and the industry. Research has previously revealed, varied perceptions of the benefits and negative impacts of internship experiences. Therefore, the aim of this research was to determine to what extent internships are valued by both hospitality students and industry employers. In order to achieve the research aim, a mixed methods methodology was applied, using two different data collection techniques to gain a better understanding of both student and employer perspectives. Using convenience sampling, an online survey was distributed to collect quantitative data from International Hospitality and Tourism Management (IHTM) students at Queen Margaret University (QMU). Semi-structured interviews followed a purposive sampling technique and were carried out with four industry managers to address the qualitative data set. The results of the research indicate that both students and employers undoubtedly recognise the benefits of implementing internship experiences. However, experience within hospitality is proving to deter students from pursuing a career in the industry, due to misperceptions of the workplace and potential exploitation; which is widely acknowledged within current literature. It is also evident within the research that organisations are working in direct partnership with certain hospitality schools and colleges to promote internships which instantly limits the students who are aware of, or able to partake in the opportunity. The study also supports the common theory that internships provide students with essential workplace skills which cannot be achieved through academic taught theory and therefore, reiterate the importance of implementing industry experience within hospitality management education. In order to gain a more truthful, in depth understanding, recommendations for further research have been made.