Jenny has been working in higher education since 2010 and is currently a hotel and events lecturer at Edge Hotel School. Jenny taught a range of hospitality, business and management subjects in her previous employment as Programme Leader at University Centre Colchester and graduated with an MBA in 2017 focusing her dissertation on zero-hour contracts. Jenny achieved HEA Affiliation in December 2020 (D2).
With over 22 years of industry experience, Jenny has worked within a number of operational and management roles prior to her teaching career including restaurants, bars, conference and events, sports stadiums, outside catering and also fine dining.
When did you become interested in a hospitality career?
From a young age I enjoyed holidays, visiting hotels and going out to dinner with parents as I got to talk to new and interesting people and loved the atmosphere of a vibrant, busy venue. I also worked in a nursing home as a domestic in the kitchen from the age of 14 until I left home to go to university, serving meals in the dining room and basic cooking duties. I am also quite a social person so enjoy guest interactions and generally like looking after people so thrive on the intrinsic motivation gained from working in industry. When asked by a school careers advisor what job I would like to do, it was clear that hospitality was going to be my passion. I therefore went to university to study an HND in Hospitality Management (Licensed Retail) and then topped up onto the final year of a BA (Hons) in International Hospitality Business Management.
Is a career in hospitality as exciting as it appears?
Yes, I loved it, I still do, which is why I continue to work on a casual basis in industry. Many of us eat out, visit hotels and attend events such as concerts, weddings and sports, and so industry is part of our everyday lives. A career in hospitality provides ample opportunities to work in many different types of establishments, venues and organisations, and almost anywhere in the world. Alongside passion for industry, people skills are important, and you need to be able to handle difficult situations and people, and to be prepared for unplanned situations as anything can happen which is why it is so exciting; no one day is the same.
Why did you decide to move into education?
When working for the hotel booking agency part of my job role was to visit hotels on educational visits for overnight stays and found myself missing the operational side of hospitality. I therefore considered a career teaching hospitality to help others achieve their career ambitions and utilised my hospitality degree and transferable employability skills and securing my first teaching job at Colchester Institute in 2010. I was given the opportunity to teach subjects such as customer service, communication skills, leadership and numerous hospitality related modules which I had experience in, which when shared with students alongside their own experience enhances the overall learning experience. In 2013 I achieved my Professional Graduate Certificate in Education and then enrolled on a part-time Master’s in Business Administration, graduating in 2017. I love my job and find teaching incredibly rewarding, with graduation day being the most inspiring part of my job seeing our students being rewarded for all of their hard work.
Can hotel and events management be taught or is experience better?
Whilst experience is invaluable, anyone seeking career progression will enhance employability with an academic qualification. As competition for jobs increases, if an applicant has both a degree and experience it will serve them well in hospitality. The industry is lacking skilled employees and therefore having a Hotel or Events Management degree should improve career opportunities, especially where management roles are concerned. Studying for a degree at Edge Hotel School students study a variety of modules that help prepare them for a hospitality career, whether it be within operations, or working for a functional department such as Human resources, Sales or Marketing or as a future business owner. Furthermore students gain valuable experience in Wivenhoe House Hotel alongside their studies thus benefitting from both academia and work experience.
What challenges face the UK hospitality industry?
Brexit presents a number of unknown challenges, and therefore I incorporate this into my teaching sessions, preparing students for potential change and challenges that may occur on the back of leaving the European Union. The industry relies on a number of migrant workers and therefore there may be increased pressures on staffing, alongside financial constraints with the fluctuating value of the UK Sterling and exchange rates, alongside rising costs associated with rising rates and commodity costs and changes in the Living Wage/Minimum Wage. However, Britain has also experienced record numbers of foreign tourists and as the cost of overseas holidays has also gone up, more UK nationals are opting for Staycations, choosing to travel, book accommodation and visit tourist attractions and events in their home country. This presents opportunities for industry to adapt to increase demand and revenue.
The rise of zero-hour contracts also present challenges for hospitality businesses. This type of employment contract provides flexibility and enables cost savings whereby organisations can change staffing levels according to business volumes, however there is rising concern as to employment rights and therefore should be managed effectively.
University of Essex,
BA (Hons) International Hospitality Business Managament
Leeds Beckett University,
University of Essex