Management Shadowing: as a tool for improving managerial and entrepreneurial skills of tourism students
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Cooperation between hospitality companies and higher education institutions is the key factor for successful placement of graduates as well as advancement of tourism and hospitality industry. Even before graduation, it is possible to start career planning from the students’ perspective and human resources planning from the employers’ perspective. A sample pre-graduation program, which is called ‘Management Shadowing’, has been initiated in 2016-2017 spring semester at Antalya Bilim University, Turkey. The program is designed for the senior year students of Faculty of Tourism with the purpose of planning the students’ career path. In this program, the students are expected to attend the lessons at campus 3 days a week, and work in other 3 days at the collaborating companies of hospitality industry as shadow of a department manager. The match making of student and manager is based on student’s area of interest. Management Shadowing is not an internship where intern is expected to do only the routine simple and bottom level jobs without questioning; is not a management trainee program which lasts for 12-18 months and trainee is placed in different departments at entry positions far from manager and is not a sandwich year placement where student is expected to return to school afterwards. Management shadowing is a gateway from academic learning to employment with a managerial level perspective. Management Shadowing project is revitalizing the mentor-protégé teaching-learning style at university level in today’s hospitality industry with a focused target of developing managerial and entrepreneurial skills for students, creating a talent pool for industry and assurance of curriculum for academia. With this program, Managers (mentors) create a shadow (an area) enabling student ( protégé) to acts as shadow managers and yet remain under the wings of manager. The students not only learn how to use periodic information for identifying red flags in business but also learn to implement new initiatives for revenue generation, cost reduction, process ease or risk mitigation. Making decisions for day-to- day business which will be reviewed and be approved by manager is the process of gaining experience for students. On the other hand as the students are not under pressure of time or budget or not yet affected by professional blindness, the input of students provides opportunities for the enterprises to receive fresh, innovative and up-to-date ideas. This win-win partnership nourishes new business ideas as well as scrutinization of “old” ways of doing business. Management Shadowing integrates: technical knowledge, personal development and work experience under one roof at managerial level. Universities should educate and train students who will meet the requirements and expectations of sector with respect to competences of students (Collins, 2002), by providing specific courses containing hands-on training (Dale and Robinson, 2001). By effectively involving sector to curriculum design (Esichaikul and Baum, 1998), universities can reach to an optimum mixture of theoretical knowledge with practical experiences (Liu and Wall, 2006). With Management Shadowing program Academia not only gains access to up-to-date needs and expectations of the sector but also understands the ingredients vital for successful general managers in hospitality and can increase the dose of these ingredients in the curriculum to assure graduates meeting requirements of the day as well as future. Even if curriculum is adjusted as per needs and requests of the industry, some of the skills cannot be taught on the whiteboard or in the classroom. Student must be in the place where service encounter takes place and where manager leads the service either for improvement or for remedy. Hospitality industry is looking for work-ready graduates, complete with relevant experience and trained with adequate skills. It is a joint responsibility of educators and industry to train and educate graduates who will start creating added value to the company as of day one. For implementation of Management Shadowing program, 8 senior year students are nominated for spring semester 16/17 academic year. 3 companies are identified as strategic partner for application of Management Shadowing program. Between 9 March and 27 May 2017, 35 business days are identified and agreed with strategic partner companies on which students will work as shadow managers. Cooperation protocol defining course of implementation and reporting is executed between company and university and program is initiated. In order to assess the effectiveness of the Management Shadowing program following methods are used: quantitative questionnaire, semi-structured qualitative interview with the students and managers, weekly reports from the students and at the end of the program a focus group with students. Initial findings as of July 2017 indicate both the students and managers have quickly adapted to the program and both parties have cooperated with enthusiasm. Both managers and students recommended the students to enroll in this program to start designing their management shadowing program during their internship. This is a clear indication that students have understood and accepted the fact that the professional work life does not come with a syllabus or user manual. Limitations of intial implementation year are limited number of; Students (8), Managers (10), Host companies (3), Time (12 weeks x 3 days=36 days) and also the students are of different nationality and consequently potential language and cultural barriers. In order to minimize these limitations; the match making of students and companies shall be in fall semester to extend the duration and enable students to have job interview experience with host companies as well as increase the number or students, companies and departments in following years. Based on the outcome of this pilot study, further improvement and wider application of Management Shadowing program is planned. As the number of students attending the program increase, mixed and/or qualiitative research methods can be used for analysis in the future time.