Dive into Science with IdEATE
Soledad Morales
Enhancing quality jobs, apprenticeships and traineeships in the tourism sector across Europe

(Reading time: 10 minutes)

This series is offered by researchers, science communicators and academic staff working together to bring you into closer contact with science. The “Dive into Science Week with UOC Researchers” series combines the UOC’s online expertise with the offline events organized for Science Week to create an online slow-reading experience. For Science Week 2017, we’ll share scientific knowledge on e-learning, eHealth, digital humanities, and ICTs in social science. Today we highlight the European-funded IdEATE project on sustainable tourism through high-quality jobs.

Sustainable tourism with high-quality jobs

IdEATE is a European project that involves ten partners from six different countries (Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Italy and Spain). IdEATE has developed a sustainable model that helps connect the main players active in the field of tourism (job seekers, prospective employers and SMEs, training institutions and public authorities) with the ultimate goal of facilitating access to high-quality jobs and apprenticeship and traineeship positions in the tourism sector across the EU.

The project challenges different target groups to look at the tourism sector through the lens of innovation, which translates into a value creation process that benefits various categories of stakeholders. Exploiting the opportunities offered by the Internet and social media, it is based essentially on the concepts of collaboration, engagement, storytelling and relationships, all currently among the main strategies used to attract tourists towards destinations. In fact, the proposed IdEATE model can be defined as a pattern of interconnected value-adding relationships.

Its value proposition is embedded in the array of opportunities available to improve employability of jobseekers on the one hand, while boosting the image of the sector, which suffers from a negative perception in terms of job quality, seasonality and limited career prospects. And on the other hand improve attractiveness of the overall offer for tourism SMEs, which require a highly skilled and well-prepared professional workforce capable of offering innovative and customized experiences that are worthy of tourists’ time, money and recommendations.

Improving Employability and Attractiveness of the Tourism Sector

Achieving these objectives requires a well-articulated set of activities managed by suitable actors, to ensure that the value creation process is activated properly and its main objectives achieved. Thus, the IdEATE project supports the creation of a professional network specialized in the tourism sector, with innovation embedded in a model that can play a transformative role in this sector by taking advantage of the network’s impact. This approach puts more emphasis on the interactions among actors involved. The stronger the network becomes, the more attractive it is to all participating players, helping to start up a positive feedback loop, with all those involved co-producing value. IdEATE revolves around the following main objectives:

  • -broaden the role of training providers and help them to (a) enhance the employability of students, thus improving training providers’ overall offer and reputation; (b) boost the image of careers in the tourism sector and promote the acquisition of relevant skills among jobseekers so that they can face emerging tourism trends and demanding tourists;

  • -improve the employability of young Europeans by offering a benefits package  through (a) the promotion of existing tools and opportunities in the European framework (EURES, Your First Eures Job, Drop’Pin, European Alliances for Apprenticeships, Erasmus+) and (b) the offer of training content aimed at their empowerment, increased confidence in the European job market and broader soft skills;

  • -reduce asymmetric information problems for potential employers, tackling both funding and employment issues through (a) the promotion of existing tools and opportunities in the European framework (EURES, Your First Eures Job, Drop’Pin, European Alliances for Apprenticeships, Erasmus+) and (b) the offer of training content aimed at recruiting talent and improving their offer;

  • -promote open dialogue and cooperation among training providers, tourism SMEs and public players in order to support young jobseekers in becoming more easily employable, all the while helping tourism SMEs and destinations to be attractive to tourists;

  • -foster a positive image of careers in the tourism sector through a well-tested communication strategy, strongly focused on online tools and channels, and face-to-face events (a 6-country road show), thus favouring interactions and multi-dimensional experiences that attract younger groups to a career or apprenticeship or traineeship position in the tourism sector.

IdEATE targets

The IdEATE project will work on these objectives by implementing and sharing a proven research methodology. A proper communication strategy will be developed to boost tourism careers’ image through innovative activities adopting differentiated channels and content. A toolbox will be developed including videos dealing with tourism career pathways based on experiences, relevant testimonials, practical advice and suggestions and European initiatives offering mobility opportunities, apprenticeships and traineeships, as well as funding opportunities. Ultimately IdEATE will provide e-learning packages to improve the qualifications of current and future human capital in the tourism sector, addressing the challenge facing the education and training system in meeting the demand for skills, knowledge and awareness related to tourism, and to provide skills for new and existing occupations in flux.

Tourism career pathways and skills in Europe

One of the first actions within the project was to identify, not only the six most-representative and engaging tourism career pathways (TCPs) in tourism today, but also the emerging TCPs that could be in demand in the near future. And not only did we want to identify these six TCPs but also the skills or capabilities involved, any existing gender gaps and the potential for integrating immigrants in the European tourism labour market in each step of the TCPs. The main aim was to present these career paths in attractive video formats, including experiences and testimonials from past alumni, teachers, relevant professionals and experts. The ultimate goal was to avoid an academic and theory-based approach and instead offer information that was usable and ready to be applied in a work environment. Videos help build emotional connections with jobseekers and engage audiences, displaying in a just a second information whose impact outweighs any amount that would typically be read. In addition, videos are inherently viral and their messages more easily received and remembered. They facilitate storytelling processes, with meta-contents arising from interactions among jobseekers and training providers.

Career pathways are small groups of connected occupations within a career cluster, organized in a hierarchical structure, that demonstrates the increasing acquisition of skills, capabilities, and credentials reported by industry/employers. Evolution along this pathway takes place thanks to the acquisition of specialized knowledge and professional expertise as well as the merits and activities developed throughout one’s professional life. This means that every level of the career pathway is (or can be) equitable both to a level of education and training, as shown below, and to a level of skill and professional experience. In this sense, skills vary not only from occupation to occupation in the career pathways but also according to the point in time in society’s evolution, which is the same as the evolution of the economy, the labour market and demand in general. This also means that a career pathway is flexible and differs depending not only on the economic sector, but also on the historic point in time and space.

Within the tourism sector, there are different tourism career pathways, all of them linked to the tourism industry. The occupations within them are all specific to tourism and necessary for the development of tourism activities. They can be defined as occupations that require skills gained through formal education and training, are part of “mainly tourism” or “partially tourism” sectors, have a tourism-facing dimension, are a product of the tourism education and training system, and account for a certain volume of employment (EC, 2016).

Tourism Career Pathway Identification

The tourism career pathways were designed and organized by clustering them into six different categories (accommodation; food and beverage; travel and tourism; attractions, recreation and other activities; destination management and training; research and consultancy). We then enhanced this structure by focusing on certain aspects, in order to identify the final six TCPs:

  1. Mostly on those occupations that account for a certain volume of employment.

  2. Those requiring an education and training “system” in all or most Member States, which means that they are “products” of the tourism education and training system.

  3. Those that emphasize the acquisition and importance of these skills:

    1. ICT skills, as developments in ICT are changing substantially the way that much of the tourism sector operates. Many roles are becoming redundant (particularly administrative and support functions), while new occupations are emerging. Education must provide the skills needed for these new occupations as well as raise the overall level of tourism employees’ digital skills.

    2. Sustainability and responsible tourism and their management. One way to make tourism more sustainable is by increasing the demand for green skills, but this effort must go even further and include responsible management from a social and cultural point of view.

    3. Accessible tourism (for all kind of disabilities, not only physical). The education and training system must meet the demand for skills, knowledge and awareness related to accessible tourism (and legislation/public policy).

    4. Soft skills. They are crucial for service delivery, including languages, customer service, cultural awareness and cross-cultural skills, service quality and communication skills.

    5. Small business management skills (finance, human resources etc.), along with leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation skills.

  4. As shown by the report Gender Equality and Youth Employment in Travel & Tourism (2013), travel and tourism employs a higher proportion of women and young people than is represented in the workforce as a whole. In these sense, the selection and representation of the TCPs must be gender-sensitive, which means that we have to apply a gender perspective to make sure women are well represented.

IdEATE impact

The final output of the work process was the building of a matrix for each TCP selected that combined different elements, such as TCP job categories; skills in relation to each occupation within the TCP; educational requirement of each job category; type of company and other important elements such as the gender gap; spatial context; or the TCP’s potential for immigrant integration. This matrix was the main information document we used to identify and select the six final TCPs and the stakeholders to represent them.

After this step, we started a TCP validation process in which all project partners took part. This TCP validation process centred on a series of in-depth bilateral meetings held with stakeholders in each partner location, with the aim of evaluating and validating the six selected TCPs. Within these meetings, stakeholder interviewees were asked to reflect upon each TCP, comment on its suitability and accuracy in the context of the current situation/future prospects and finally revise the parameters and structure of the TCPs in order to ensure that they were representative and a true reflection of the current reality in each subsector.

Based on the outcomes of the bilateral meetings held as part of the TCP validation process, the most relevant and important tourism career pathways for the tourism sector at European level could be agreed and validated for further use within the project. These TCPs are: accommodation, gastronomy, destination management, travel and tours, guiding and experiences and sigital services and innovation.

Soft Skills in the Tourism Labour Market

Another interesting outcome of this first step of the project was the identification of the most important soft skills in the tourism labour market such as ethical compromise, respect for others and diversity acceptance. Acquisition of the communication skills that are essential to attend to, provide and plan the services demanded in different languages. Digital competence: confident and critical usage of information and communication technologies in the workplace. Resilience, adaptability, good presentation skills or emotional intelligence. And finally stress and time management. This information is now being used to create e-learning packages for jobseekers and SMEs as well as promotional material for young Europeans deciding on their future career pathways. However, these will be dealt with in the next stages of the IdEATE project.