The Swedish school preparing students for career success in a post-covid world

For decades, hotels, restaurants, bars and large events have offered young people a chance to work internationally and experience new cultures. However, few industries have needed a more thorough reassessment as a result of Covid-19.

The Swedish school preparing students for career success in a post-covid world

So how will the current crisis reshape the multi-billion dollar hospitality industry? It will need to be even more customer-focused, with a greater emphasis on digital technology, flexibility, emotional intelligence, and local solutions.

That’s the message from R. Max Behesht, Dean of César Ritz Colleges Switzerland, a leading business school with Hospitality and Entrepreneurship at heart.

While widely recognized globally, the IB (IB) Career-related Programme in Business and Hospitality Management, for students aged 16 to 19, is relatively new to Sweden. From this year, students at Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket (SSHL), a bilingual school just north of Stockholm, will have the opportunity to take the IB-career related Business and Hospitality Management Programme. SSHL is partnering with the highly-ranked Swiss Education Group, of which César Ritz Colleges is a member, and VIE Academy.

Far from seeing the current challenges as insurmountable, Behesht says they provide exciting challenges for young people eager for real world experience. “What’s required going into the future is new knowledge, new technologies but most importantly resilience and emotional intelligence,” he says.

Find out how the Business and Hospitality Management programme (due to launch in August 2021) offers preparation for employment and higher education

Only the best will be good enough

“Mediocrity is no longer acceptable,” says Behesht. In an era when travel and socialising are viewed as risky, a customer experience “better be the best you can possibly have, so people want to come back and want to tell everyone else about it.”

This means hospitality is becoming more competitive, especially in terms of how to customize its offerings to meet customers’ expectations. This is just the sort of challenge that suits bright young minds who are “innovative and entrepreneurial” in their thinking, says Behesht. While the industry can still offer exciting international experiences, many of the solutions focus on the local and being available ‘on demand’.

The InterContinental in Geneva is a five-star hotel used to hosting UN dignitaries. Right now, however, the hotel currently offers radically different options. “They’re creating not only staycations but also ‘workcations’, where people come and work for a day or stay a week at the hotel,” states Behesht. “The hotel is also starting to offer takeaways or home delivery for previous guests who love the Sunday buffet brunch. They’re completely reshaping their offering to suit the market.” Personalized offerings for customers, including group activities, will be vital in future, he says, rather than simply a fixed price list for customers to choose from.

Is your teenager interested in shaping the culinary trends of the future? Explore SSHL’s Business and Hospitality Management programme today

Soft skills at the centre

Creative problem-solving is clearly one much-needed skill in the hospitality trade, along with a service-oriented way of thinking. What other skills will students be trained to develop? According to Behesht, an increased emphasis on customer experience means interpersonal skills will be crucial.

While a growing focus on smooth use of digital technology and hygiene considerations is desirable, it could also make customer relationships overly “clinical”. “When something becomes clinical, you take away the flavour,” he says. “So, you need to add the soft social skills like emotional intelligence and good communication to create the enhanced value that people will invest money and time for.”

The aim, he says, is to build lasting customer relationships by combining “excellence and empathy”. Nor are these skills only relevant in hospitality. Behesht tells us many industries are “seeing the value of our students” with Tesla among the leading companies to have joined Swiss Education Group’s career fairs in the hunt for interns.

(Pic SSHL)

From Sweden, the world becomes your playground

SSHL is due to launch the hospitality programme in August this year. All teaching is in English, other than an element in the  mother tongue of individual students. Work placements and optional internships take place with a number of partners, close to SSHL.

“Internships usually set students up for a great entry in management trainee positions in the top ranks,” says Behesht. The experience is of huge value, with students from more than 110 countries taking part. “Walk through our campuses and the world will come to you,” he adds.

Students who choose the hospitality programme at SSHL will also study three IB Diploma Programme subjects to prepare them for further studies. After completing the programme, students are ready to go directly into work in the industry or to enter higher education in the field. Students could also potentially get credits to support their development when attending César Ritz Colleges to further their studies. 

Behesht, who is Swedish and grew up in Gotland, wishes he had discovered such a possibility himself when he was a teenager. “I always did summer jobs as a waiter when I was 16, 17,” he recalls. “Nobody ever told me you could study a proper business programme that is very much focused on the real world and hospitality. “What we offer is really a school of life: when you leave, you’re up to the challenge.”

Know an innovative and empathetic teenager? Find out more about the IBCP Business and Hospitality Management programme, due to launch at SSHL from August 2021

Member comments

  1. While granny and more Asians were beaten and shot, the rumors of an outbreak led to the Asian community being misunderstood and hurt by the fact that the culprits were sitting in their comfort zones as innocent people enjoying the pleasures of human blood.

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Sweden’s Social Democrats call for ban on new free schools

Sweden's opposition Social Democrats have called for a total ban on the establishment of new profit-making free schools, in a sign the party may be toughening its policies on profit-making in the welfare sector.

Sweden's Social Democrats call for ban on new free schools

“We want the state to slam on the emergency brakes and bring in a ban on establishing [new schools],” the party’s leader, Magdalena Andersson, said at a press conference.

“We think the Swedish people should be making the decisions on the Swedish school system, and not big school corporations whose main driver is making a profit.” 

Almost a fifth of pupils in Sweden attend one of the country’s 3,900 primary and secondary “free schools”, first introduced in the country in the early 1990s. 

Even though three quarters of the schools are run by private companies on a for-profit basis, they are 100 percent state funded, with schools given money for each pupil. 

This system has come in for criticism in recent years, with profit-making schools blamed for increasing segregation, contributing to declining educational standards and for grade inflation. 

In the run-up to the 2022 election, Andersson called for a ban on the companies being able to distribute profits to their owners in the form of dividends, calling for all profits to be reinvested in the school system.  

READ ALSO: Sweden’s pioneering for-profit ‘free schools’ under fire 

Andersson said that the new ban on establishing free schools could be achieved by extending a law banning the establishment of religious free schools, brought in while they were in power, to cover all free schools. 

“It’s possible to use that legislation as a base and so develop this new law quite rapidly,” Andersson said, adding that this law would be the first step along the way to a total ban on profit-making schools in Sweden.