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Education Editor's Pick

Rapid integration into working life: Dual education in theory and practice is what makes the difference

Discover what our students are doing for their practical and academic projects.

Graduates of the Swiss Professional Degree “Dipl. Hôtelière-Restauratrice/Hôtelier-Restaurateur HF” are sought-after specialists. The main reason why they quickly find a job with this federally recognised diploma is that they already have at least two years professional work experience at the end of their studies. After all, "learning by doing" is not just an empty phrase at a higher vocational school, it is part of the curriculum. Having the chance to implement theoretical knowledge or concepts from the classroom directly into practice ensures that students understand how it works, and will not forget what they learn. This practical experience is worth its weight in gold to the future employer.

The dual training system is deeply rooted in Switzerland. Basic vocational training begins with an apprenticeship and a vocational school. If a young talent decides to continue their education, they often continue at a higher vocational school. The SSTH Hotel Management School in Passugg is an example of this type of combined theoretical and practical education for the hotel, gastronomy and hospitality industry.

The SSTH does not just want to educate their students in theory and practice, but wants to train students to become strong, self-confident professionals. The SSTH's Affective Hospitality Vision is reflected in the primary competencies of being a good host, working together as a team, and taking responsibility for oneself. Here, the training of the soft skills of the students is central. In contrast to other hotel management schools, the SSTH not only teaches social skills, but also strengthens the students’ abilities for self-reflection. The best way to develop these skills is to apply them. This is achieved by creating enough space in the curriculum for practical lessons and project work.

Personality development through teamwork and project management

During the semesters, projects are organized and decisions are made both alone or as a team. During their studies, students can independently implement projects and test concepts. If something goes wrong, the mistakes are learned from, so that next time they are improved on. If the projects are successfully implemented, the successes must of course be celebrated. The students learn to work in a team, but also to assume responsibility as individuals. By working on a variety of projects, students expand their professional, personal and social skills to gain a high level of self-confidence. The practical work is an important part of the lessons and must be done every semester.

Practical lessons in the four school semesters

In the first semester, the kitchens and service practice are part of the curriculum of the hospitality management students. They develop and learn the basic skills of kitchen preparation, from safety and hygiene standards to specialist knowledge and practical activities. In the lesson Service Practice, they work in our in-house restaurants and gain an insight into the various aspects of guest care. Here the students will learn the basics of service preparation and fine dining. At the end of the first semester, the students have to prepare a gala dinner. At the gala dinner, the students demonstrate their kitchens and service skills.

In the second semester, students gain insight into the practical requirements in housekeeping and in the front office. In the housekeeping practice, they learn about quality and hygiene standards and how hotel infrastructure is operated and maintained. In the front office practice, the students will gain insight into the practical activities at the front and back office. At a practice reception desk set up in the school hotel, students train guest contact skills and apply their acquired knowledge of the administrative processes of reservations and booking systems.

The concept week takes place in the fourth semester. During the concept week, students put their theoretical knowledge into practice as group work. The aim is to create a catering concept and then implement it effectively. Each student takes on a task in the group, such as Food and Beverage, Finance, Marketing or Organization. The students are evaluated for their work and receive a budget for its implementation. They must present the concept to the Head of Studies and have it approved. In recent years, the students have set up various pop-up restaurants.

In the sixth semester, a business plan developed together with an external business partner. The students develop a real business case and find solutions to financing questions, project and process management, marketing and, in some cases, even legal questions.

Two paid internship semesters in companies in Switzerland or abroad

Before entering the sixth semester, students must have at least 24 months of professional experience. Ideally, students should have up to 12 months of practical experience before starting their studies, so that they only have to complete a further 12 months divided into two practical semesters. However, if the students have less work experience, it is no problem to extend the internship semesters. Students in Switzerland complete their first six-month paid internship in an operational function at a hotel or restaurant of their choice. The second six-month paid management internship can be completed at home or abroad in a supervisory function. The Career Service Team of the SSTH supports students in their choice of internship to help them build experience that supports their career goals.

Practical experience brings great advantages when starting a career

Industry knowledge and practical experience give students a competitive advantage and make a significant contribution to their professional success. This gives young professionals a valuable edge when they are looking for their first job after graduation. For this reason, the studies at the SSTH concentrate on providing them with management training as well as complete industry integration through operational and management internships. It also allows students to build up a network in the hospitality industry, which will also be very helpful in their private and professional lives later on.