WITH the Irish hospitality sector on the rebound, hotels can’t afford to compromise on the quality of its personnel, director of the Shannon College of Hotel Management Philip Smyth said at the institution’s annual graduation ceremony.
The school was founded all of 63 years ago by the late Dr Brendan O’Regan, whose attention to the finer details was legend. And that this year’s record crop of 92 graduates have all secured employment is testament to that legacy.
The college’s quality was also recognised when Shannon Airport Authority insisted it be retained as a subsidiary of the airport when it was separated from the DAA.
“As tourism recovers over the next few years, hotels have to continue to compete on price and continue to match other attractive destinations with a high quality product,” Mr Smyth commented at the graduation ceremony on Friday.
“Quality is what the Irish industry is noted for, particularly in relation to service and we cannot lose focus on that.
“The industry is embarking on a period of recruitment and hiring, therefore quality needs to be a top priority for hotels as they select candidates to fill these positions. This will best be achieved if we encourage the brightest and the best into the industry.
“The reason we have 100 percent graduate employment rates, which is a proud record we have retained since the college was founded over 60 years ago, is because of the dedication to quality that we have at the college. This dates back to the foundation of the college and that’s why today we have relationships with some of the best known and most exclusive hotels in the world,” Mr Smyth said.
Over the five-year programme, students go on work placements with some of the biggest names in hospitality.
The class of 2014 went on placements to establishments such as The Savoy Hotel, London; The Waldorf Astoria, New York; The Dorchester, London; Fairmont St Andrews, Scotland; Kiwah Island Resort, USA; Intercontinental Hotel Doha, Qatar and the Hyatt Hotel Hong Kong. And many are now in full-time employment at the same hotels.
Right through the global recession, Shannon College had been able to place its students at the world’s leading hotels, who Mr Smyth said appreciated the “innate sense of hospitality and friendliness” associated with Ireland and Shannon’s students alike.
Shannon College’s international reputation is also reflected in the increasing number of students it draws from overseas. Some 54 of this year’s 92 graduates are from the Seychelles, China, Portugal, India, Germany, Egypt, New Zealand and South Korea,
The government of the Seychelles, a high-end destination in the Indian Ocean, has signed an exclusive deal with Shannon College of Hotel Management to educate the hoteliers of the future on the island paradise.
From closer to home is Darragh Culhane, Pallaskenry, who is off to New York state and Cornell University for a professional development programme having won the $10,000 Banfi Foundation Scholarship awarded to the college’s top performer.
Mr Culhane has gone against conventional wisdom in swapping a computer science course for the hospitality sector to advance his career. Currently an assistant front office manager at the five-star Fairmont St Andrew’s in Scotland, Mr Culhane said he was indebted to the practical grounding in the hotel business he found in Shannon.
“The foundation they provide for us is something money cannot buy and no matter where you are in the world, you are never going to be far from a Shannon graduate,” Mr Culhane said.