Often, I am asked what kind of education I have within the hospitality industry and when I say my title, nobody understands what that means.
My title is “Hotelfachfrau” which means translated hotel specialist – woman. To receive this title, you need to do an apprenticeship for three years in a hotel, which is combined with compulsory school attendances.
The best on this dual system is, that the apprentice is employed by the hotel, which means he receives a salary set by the state and the hotel (employer) is responsible for him in all aspects. Health insurance, vacation etc. is handled by the hotel (employer) and the employer must make sure, that the apprentice attends school to learn the theoretical parts, such as economics, marketing, HR, English/French/Spanish but also service standards and basic knowledge of cooking.
The reason why it is called dual system is, that you are an employee (same rights as a full employee) and a student (ISIC status) at the same time. This system is also supported dually – the school by Germany and the German chamber of commerce, the employer on the other hand receives support from the federal states of Germany.
The school controls the employer, that every apprentice receives the correct training and that he goes through every department in the hotel and stays there for a minimum of 1 month. Also, the employer must make sure, that you have learned in each department the necessary essentials; this is to not abuse you only for cleaning tables, i.e.
How does that work in reality? Well, at the beginning I spend 5 months in the kitchen. In the first year you have school in blocks, which means you work three months regular shifts and then you have school for two weeks and so on. In the kitchen you are together with other apprentices mostly responsible for the preparation of breakfast. You learn how a hotel kitchen works, who has which position and is responsible for what. It was a great experience and I learned all about hygiene in the kitchen, preparation of cold food and how groceries need to be treated, how long it takes to prepare them and that being a chef is not just about cooking.
5 months is the longest time, that you can spend in one department. After that I spend between one and three months in Stewarding, Housekeeping, Room Service, Restaurant service a la carte, Breakfast service, Front Desk, Reservations and Sales, Banquet Service and Finance.
Great by being an apprentice in a hotel is, that you receive the possibility to learn everything and that you may decide later, what department suites you most. Also, you get to know everyone including the General Manager which makes you feel valued and that you are important for the hotel. The teams are very strong and the understanding between the departments is much better, than I learned here in the Czech Republic.
In the second and the third year you go to school once in a week. Next to your regular school homework you must write into a separate exercise book, what you have learned during your working time in your department per week. That was sometimes funny, because you really write even things like “I learned how to clean a toilet properly”. The department head must sign it for you, and you present this book then to the teacher in school.
I cannot compare my education with the educational system for hotel business in the Czech Republic, but I have the opinion that the dual system at least in the hospitality business is perfect. When I came to Prague to work as a receptionist I was surprised, that there was nearly no practical knowledge of the departments and of the dependency between each department. Also, I was surprised, that when colleagues were asked to help to clean tables in the restaurant at peak times or the other way around to help with check outs, the employees were shocked and felt abused.
Thanks to the dual system I learned not to make differences between the “receptionist” the “sales manager” or the “service” because one does not go without the other.
The apprenticeship is finished with a theoretical exam and a practical test and you receive the title
“Hotelfachfrau/mann” proofed by the German chamber of commerce.
Maybe the biggest difference is how you are treated, when coming to a first interview for a full-time job in Germany. You are not asked: “What is your experience in this department?” but you are asked: “Why did you choose to work in our department?”