Want to stay ahead of the pack? Lifelong learning is the answer

Education and training are the two most important things in any industry, Valérie de Corte, the industry relations and alumni director at one of the world's top hotel management schools says.

Education and training are the two most important things in any industry, Valérie de Corte, the industry relations and alumni director at one of the world's top hotel management schools says.

De Corte, who was in Cape Town attending the Tourism, Hotel Investment and Networking Conference Africa 2018, works at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland. The school has been in operation for more than 100 years.

“Education and training is going to be one of the big challenges of the future. It is not about just doing one course and then being set for the rest of your life,” she told Fin24 ahead of the conference on Wednesday.

“It will now be about people doing courses and training all the time, otherwise a business runs the risk of being overtaken by the competition.

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“Part of the new education system means having constant refreshment courses and developing new skills – basically learning throughout your whole life.”

She said EHL was keen to expand into Africa, particularly in South Africa and possibly Botswana. The school is planning to open its second campus in Singapore next year and expects that to be followed with a campus in Africa a few years later.


One of the big aims of EHL at the moment is to tap the potential of the millennial generation.

“Two years from now those people born between 1980 and 2000 will be a third of the world’s population. They will be the decision makers and players the industry will have to deal with,” said De Corte.

She said they were also keen to learn from African countries.

“We want to see what important aspects we can learn from Africa, but also what we as EHL can bring to our young students in Africa,” she said.

“In Africa people never do things alone. They always try do to things as a team. We in Europe can learn from that. That is why we want to learn from the way people do business in Africa and achieve success.”

EHL research shows that leadership is becoming a central point in executive education in the world. That is why EHL is working towards new courses and new programmes in this regard.

The core aspect for EHL is what she describes as “the management of customer relationships”.

“Today this notion is part of every industry – from banking, luxury goods, consulting, theme parks and even clinics. Everybody needs to attract and retain customers,” she said.

Retaining talent

She said they would be launching an "innovation village" at its new campus in Lausanne - reflecting the "education system of tomorrow". 

The innovation village will also enable start-ups working in the hospitality industry to be incubated there.

“Many students already develop start-ups while they are studying. Such types of incubators like the innovation village can help them as a launching platform,” she said.
De Corte emphasised that the human factor will always remain central in the hospitality and business world. 

“So, it is all connected to how the human factor is developed, because things are going to change at a faster pace than before. In future having trained and skilled people will be even more important than today. The future will be about developing specific skills,” she said.

Gender equality is another important issue she emphasised. In her view, Africa still lags behind on this front and would have to push hard as a priority to catch up.
“We at EHL are confident that Africa will be a player in the global hospitality industry in future.  To make that happen, local and international inputs are needed.

In her view providing students from other parts of the world with internship opportunities in Africa could also create what she calls a “super mix” for the younger generation to bring ideas to the continent and also take new ideas with them when they leave.

“This is the role of an education system - to bring people together. This is certainly how we see our role in business development,” she said.

This article was first published on Fin24.

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