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Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management's internship programme is bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical experience. 

Nearly all college graduates start looking for jobs after graduating but Durga Thapa, Director of Food and Beverage at Shangri-La Hotel, took a different route. He paved his professional path through the Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management's (SMSH) internship and on-campus recruitment programme during his four-year Bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management (BHM).

Thapa applied his academic knowledge of Hospitality Management during his first six-month internship at Dwarika's Hotel. During the next six-month internship, he gained work experience in another field of the hospitality industry, Sisa Holiday Tour Pvt Ltd. Later, he was selected as a Food and Beverage Team Member at India's renowned hotel chain Taj Hotels during an on-campus recruitment the last semester. 

"I did both a job and internship at Sisa Holiday Pvt Ltd as Marketing and Public Relations Officer for around nine months," says Thapa. "In the last semester, our college coordinator informed us about the vacancy in Taj Hotels.  I was the only one to get recruited for that hotel through a Skype interview." 

Like Thapa, several students from SMSH are getting recruited in different fields of the hospitality industry. According to the college's Director for Admission, Marketing and Placement, Sandipa Thapa Basnyat, almost all its students join various national and international entities of the hospitality sector such as Gokarna Forest Resort, Yeti Airlines, Westin Starwood Hotel and Resort, Hyatt, etc. through its on-campus recruitment. 

She says, "On average, 87.5 percent of the students were recruited in the last five years. Last year, 92 percent of the students were recruited. Today, around seven students from the college are working in the Visit Nepal Year campaign as well.”

Initiating On-Campus Recruitment
As the first private hospitality management college in Nepal, SMSH has been providing this platform since its operation in 2002. Basnyat, who is also the co-founder of SMSH, explains that the recruitment programme began with an aim to utilise educated manpower in the hospitality sector. "We started on-campus recruitment from the very beginning when we had only eight students for offering a diploma programme in affiliation with the American Hospitality and Lodging Association (AHLA). Today we are offering BHM from Queen Margaret University and different diploma courses to over 800 students. And till this date, we are running internship and recruitment programmes for free," recalls Basnyat.

Recruitment Scenario Then and Now
In her 18 years of experience in on-campus recruitment, Basnyat observes that the recruitment scenario is improving these days.  "There was a trend of working in the same organisation for 25 to 30 years. And it was the ultimate option too in the absence of many hotels in the past.  There was also a concept of working in five-star hotels only after completing a degree in Hospitality Management," elaborates Basnyat. 

But today there is a wide scope for graduates with the increase in hospitality options such as airlines, tour agencies, and emerging hotels. She reveals that there is a high demand for Hospitality Management graduates globally. "In the past, only around five students were demanded. Every year, we are getting more demand from the international hospitality sector, especially from Dubai and Turkey. The demand is exceeding our production of graduates." According to her, last year the college received a demand for 60 students and this year the number has reached 200.

"In Nepal, many new hotels including Aloft and Marriot are recruiting fresh graduates," she shares, adding that only experienced human resources were preferred by five-star hotels in the early days but today the criteria has become less demanding.

A Package Rather than a Day Event 
For SMSH, on-campus recruitment is a whole package for employing students. Both education and preparation for recruitment happen concurrently over four years of the Bachelor's degree. "On-campus recruitment is a process where colleges support the graduates for their recruitment at any organisation," says Basnyat.

The college provides orientation in career, internship and on-campus recruitment from the first year of a student's enrollment. During the orientation, students record their career vision. Likewise, it runs classes for enhancing their professional writing, business, communication skills, personality development, etc.  In the second year, it makes students visit different hotels. Similarly, different employers are also invited to the college to link them and their future employees. It also teaches the students how to write a resume, cover letter and how to attend an interview. In the same year, it organises a mock interview camp for the students.

Finally, they attend a formal interview with employers before their curricular internship in the following two years. A year of internship is divided into two blocks- six months in the third year and six months in the fourth year. "It would be easier for them to learn theories after gaining experience in the job market in the fifth semester. Otherwise, the lessons learned in the course would be vague if they never had exposure to any hotel," clarifies Basnyat. In the last semester, students choose their interested career and accordingly the college prepares them to approach relevant business houses. 

Role of Internship for Recruitment 
Since the hospitality sector is a skill-based industry, it requires more practical experience and knowledge rather than a straightforward curriculum. For this, the college has a wine-lab, different kitchen for different programmes, Barista schools, etc. However, Basnyat says the limited resources at the colleges are not enough to offer real-world experiences to students, for which internships are required. Durga Thapa also notes, "We get a chance to meet and deal with real customers during the internship and that is not possible at any college."

Further, the internship at SMSH allows students to make an informed decision regarding which department, hotel or organisation they are best fit for. Every year, around 450 students of the college do internships, where 40 percent are recruited directly from the internship, reveals Basnyat.

Recruitment Process
“The last semester at SMSH is entirely geared towards placement. Employers from at least 20 international properties/hotels visit the college for an interview”, says Basnyat. They brief students about their companies and conduct written tests and interviews as per their recruitment system. The international organisations hold online interviews for their internship programmes while their representatives visit the college for recruitment.

Students need not have completed their academic programme to be eligible for the interview. Whenever there is a vacancy, companies consult the college and forward the necessary recruitment process. Basnyat shares that 90 percent of the students become determined to engage in certain hospitality entities a month before their graduation in May.  

Industrial Tie-Ups
According to Basnyat, SMSH has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with around 80 organisations (properties) from almost 15 countries. It has an industrial tie-up with international hotel brands like Ritz Carlton, Vivanta by Taj, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriot, Jumeirah, Galaxy, Dubai Golf, etc. Similarly, it has collaborated with more than 20 hospitality industries in Nepal such as Nepal Tourism Board, Hotel Association of Nepal, Airport, Nepal Army, different embassies and hotels including Dwarika Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel, Soaltee Hotel, Hotel Annapurna, Hotel Yak and Yeti, etc. International job placements, documentation, correspondence, interviews, and VISAs are all arranged by the college itself.

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