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Training abroad opens new doors for LAU hospitality management students

[photo]
Students learn cooking and delivery techniques at an LAU hospitality management lab.

August 10, 2009—

Although LAU’s hospitality management program does not require its students to travel abroad to fulfill the 320-hour training required to graduate, it provides dozens of students each year the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at some of the busiest and well-known hotels across the globe.

“I think it is our duty not just to educate students, but also to provide them a place to do their training — I don’t think education will be enough by itself,” says Bassem Slim, a faculty member at LAU’s School of Business, who is responsible for organizing the student placements.

This year, about 20 hospitality management students will train abroad in China, Egypt and Malaysia where they will be working at famous hotels including the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and the Sheraton.

“The training helps you gain experience because they really teach you how to deal with all the situations that may arise,” says Georges Tamer, an LAU hospitality lab supervisor, as he recalls his two travels in 2000 to Malaysia where he trained at a Marriott hotel (then a Crown Plaza), when he was an LAU hospitality management student.

The hospitality management program began offering these training opportunities to its students in 1998. Originally, the program used to send students to the United States, but because of increasing difficulties in obtaining visas, has since been dealing primarily with hotels in Asia and the Middle East.

Aside from the technical skills the students gain through the training, traveling abroad also provides them with exposure to different cultural lifestyles — a must in the global business of hospitality.

While the current opportunities already condition students to the rigorous professions in the field, Slim explains that graduates may require more than standard training to succeed in Lebanon’s highly competitive hospitality industry.

To give LAU students an edge in the competition, Slim says an agreement is in the works with Kempinski Hotels, a German hotel chain that owns and manages over 55 hotels in more than 20 countries throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Aside from concentrating more heavily on management-focused training, the upcoming deal will also guarantee students full-time jobs with the hotel upon completion of the training.

“Once we finalize that deal [that focuses on] management training, I think we’ll be the only university in the Middle East that will guarantee its students a full-time position at the time of graduation,” Slim says.

Most hospitality training programs typically last three months, with each student investing eight-ten working hours per day, six days per week, while the Kempinski deal will ask students to commit to a six-month program.

In addition to offering hotel-training opportunities, LAU’s hospitality management program has also been sending, since 2003, students to train during the Dubai Airshow, a biennial event that draws thousands of visitors from around the world for a weeklong aircraft exhibition.

The students typically spend seven to eight days at the air show where they provide dining services to guests staying inside the luxurious chalets.

This year, 40 LAU students will train at the air show in November.

“We began by sending 20 or 25 students then progressed to 40 since they have been doing an exceptional job,” says Dr. Said Ladki, chair of the Hospitality Management and Accounting Department.

Ladki explains that the air show also serves as a venue for recruiters from large catering companies on the hunt for potential employees. “Students who participate in this training are first to be picked up by corporations,” he adds. “Those who rise and compete well get spotted.”


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