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Working in Switzerland

Hospitality Schools Welcome Professionals

Whereas in other countries, hospitality and hotel management is offered as a program at universities, Switzerland has entire schools dedicated to training international students to work in the hospitality and tourism industry. Courses include practical and theoretical training in preparation for internships and a professional career. The schools in themselves are hotels that provide students with accommodation and a total hotel immersion experience. “Joining a Swiss hotel school means joining something like the United Nations of hoteliers,” reports www.studyoverseas.com.

A Range of Positions

The schools employ staff for a number of different positions ranging from lecturers and operational staff to librarians, internship coordinators, and receptionists.

To work in the operations and administration department—as a chef preparing meals for the in-house restaurants, as a duty manager, etc.—it is necessary to have experience and references.

Lecturers either teach languages (French, German, English) or hospitality subjects such as housekeeping, wine and spirits, food preparation, banqueting, accounting, communications, etc. The normal requirement to teach is a degree in hospitality or related subject, three years hospitality experience, and three years training or teaching experience. Often academic deans will look at the bigger picture on your CV, so highlight experience at leading groups, supervisory roles, customer contact, working knowledge of industry systems, programs, technology, machinery, etc.

What to Expect

Expect to teach 30 or more students in a class for a theory course. Practical classes are often smaller and assistants help with preparation. Be prepared to design and teach new classes.

Class timetables are fixed for the semester, and generally working hours are between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. with only the occasional weekend duty. Fewer full-time permanent positions are available in some departments than part-time contract positions.

Most schools have course handbooks that outline the syllabus and standard core subjects. Understanding how one subject or department supports another is the key to grasping the relevance of what you are teaching. Your industry experience is invaluable to the students as it gives them real expectations and prepares them for their internships.

The Rewards

Salaries for full-time professional positions average between 4,000–5,000 Swiss francs per month. It is easily possible to pay taxes, health insurance, and put money in the bank on this income. Part-time hourly rates are between 50 and 100 Swiss francs per hour.

Apart from the prestige and the beauty of the surroundings, there are often staff development programs. Other perks include eating at the in-house restaurants for free and regular staff get-togethers and social activities.

Then of course there is simply the pleasure of being in Switzerland. If the idea of spending winters skiing and summers sailing doesn’t tempt you, then perhaps the easy access to the neighboring countries—France, Italy, Germany and Austria—will.

Choosing a School

In general, the longer the school has been established the better the organization, the happier the students, and the better the working conditions. Not all schools are regulated and meet international standards. I worked for the Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS). For a short list of recognized, well-established schools in Switzerland see the Swiss Hotel Schools Association (ASEH) website for details.

It is possible to visit Switzerland on a 3-month tourist visa to search for work, but it isn’t worth the risk to work without the correct papers. To get a work permit it is necessary to secure a work contract. Hotel schools will often organize these details on your behalf. Apply directly to the academic dean.

Immersion in Swiss Culture

Expect to develop a seasoned palette for all cuisines. This is a place to eat and taste your way around the world in one location. Working alongside international colleagues can be interesting. The shared experience of being abroad together makes people more open to meet new people. If you find yourself becoming very efficient you know that the Swiss culture is influencing you.

For More Info

The Swiss Hotel Schools Association, www.aseh.ch, lists the 12 principle schools.

www.ehotelier.com has a full list of international hotel schools worldwide and the latest hospitality industry news.

Networking is the name of the game if you are already in Switzerland. For language teachers, the best way to meet other teachers of English is through the English Teachers Association Switzerland: www.e-tas.ch.

www.xpatxchange.ch advises English-speaking expatriates living and doing business in Switzerland.