The Strategic Alliance for Higher Education and Tourism Industry conference, which took place in Amman recently, brought together higher education and tourism industry leaders and educators across Jordan and from abroad to boost ties between tourism education providers and the industry.
The conference was not only a key national initiative for tourism education; it also provided an opportunity for a class of Jordanian students of tourism and hospitality to gain insight into the workings of the sector and undertake some useful practical experience.
Tourism and hospitality students from the University of Jordan were given the opportunity to take part in the event as 30 students volunteered to be part of the event organization and take part in key sessions. This initiative was implemented by the University of Jordan and the USAID Jordan Tourism Development Project as part of efforts to encourage practical experience for students in tourism.
Those students who partook were pleased to have this opportunity and get involved in such a conference, which hosted Jordan’s higher education and tourism industry leaders along with international experts who highlighted major trends and best practices relating to tourism industry and education collaboration. These efforts seek to bridge the gap between education and labour market needs, and offering youth to take part is in line with the ultimate goals.
Nora Al Shami, one of the tourism students who helped at the event, expressed that she is happy with her chosen specialization and likes to get involved in anything related to it. "I had the chance to meet tourism industry representatives and learned from them about the various work opportunities in the industry," she added.
According to another student volunteer, Maram Tarshihi,"The days I spent working on the event were great and the conference was a huge success; if I have another chance to repeat it I will not hesitate. I heard interesting things from the speakers about the skills, knowledge and attitudes that I should have to increase my chances of employability." For Maram, the event was also a great networking opportunity as she received a number of internship offers from some of the industry representatives she met during the event.
Practical experience is vital to tourism and hospitality education in order to directly align the skills and learning of students with current industry needs. Involving youth in the development of tourism education is also important to gain interest in tourism among students and make them more aware of what opportunities it can offer. Through the work of the USAID tourism project and its government and private sector partners, internships are becoming a key part of tourism education across Jordan, from vocational training to higher education. It is helping to improve service standards and, more importantly, increasing interest from Jordanian youth in taking up tourism studies and careers. The University of Jordan now offers bachelor degrees in tourism and hospitality management at both its Amman and Aqaba campuses. Already more than 200 students have enrolled in the four-year program newly introduced at the Aqaba campus.