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Why it's so important to build close ties with your old college or university

22 August 2014
Why it's so important to build close ties with your old college or university

Going back to your old college to speak to the students could be one of the most rewarding parts of your career, says Peter Ducker

Hospitality is one of the real success stories of the UK economy and it requires an ever-increasing number of qualified managers. But at the same time, gaining a university degree is an expensive business. Therefore, students understandably want the reassurance that their hospitality management degree is high quality and fully reflects current industry practice to prepare them for a career in the real world.

One way of gauging how in-touch a college or university programme is with industry is to look at the range of visiting speakers it has as part of its curriculum.
Here are just some of the industry players who have spoken to students at UK colleges in recent months: Heston Blumenthal; Raymond Blanc; chief executive of British Airways Keith Williams; founder of the Slow Food movement Carlo Petrini; royal chef Mark Flanagan; senior vice-president of global risk management at IHG John Ludlow; Russell Kett of HVS; and Cris Tarrant of BDRC Continental.

It is important that students are inspired by major personalities who can add some stardust to their studies. Coming home to tell your friends and family that you spent the day cooking with Heston Blumenthal is certainly going to make an impression.

At the same time, it is equally important that students are shown the rich variety of paths a career in hospitality can provide at all levels. Therefore, students will get a great deal of value and insight from listening to people closer to their age and experience. Visiting speakers who are just a few years into their careers will be particularly instructive and help students make informed choices about their future careers.

Hospitality and culinary programme coordinators are in constant need of new industry speakers. Did you study hospitality management? Have you been back to your college or university to speak? Perhaps you are a successful entrepreneur without formal qualifications. Remember that your passion and energy are infectious. Why not find your local college or university that delivers hospitality programmes, build a relationship and enquire about speaking opportunities?

It's very satisfying to be a visiting speaker at any time in your career. It's refreshing to interact with the students and you will come away having learned something, too. It will also mean that your business makes a very good impression and you will get the first pick of the graduates.

Peter Ducker is chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality

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