The Swedish school preparing students for career success in a post-covid world

For decades, hotels, restaurants, bars and large events have offered young people a chance to work internationally and experience new cultures. However, few industries have needed a more thorough reassessment as a result of Covid-19.

The Swedish school preparing students for career success in a post-covid world

So how will the current crisis reshape the multi-billion dollar hospitality industry? It will need to be even more customer-focused, with a greater emphasis on digital technology, flexibility, emotional intelligence, and local solutions.

That’s the message from R. Max Behesht, Dean of César Ritz Colleges Switzerland, a leading business school with Hospitality and Entrepreneurship at heart.

While widely recognized globally, the IB (IB) Career-related Programme in Business and Hospitality Management, for students aged 16 to 19, is relatively new to Sweden. From this year, students at Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket (SSHL), a bilingual school just north of Stockholm, will have the opportunity to take the IB-career related Business and Hospitality Management Programme. SSHL is partnering with the highly-ranked Swiss Education Group, of which César Ritz Colleges is a member, and VIE Academy.

Far from seeing the current challenges as insurmountable, Behesht says they provide exciting challenges for young people eager for real world experience. “What’s required going into the future is new knowledge, new technologies but most importantly resilience and emotional intelligence,” he says.

Find out how the Business and Hospitality Management programme (due to launch in August 2021) offers preparation for employment and higher education

Only the best will be good enough

“Mediocrity is no longer acceptable,” says Behesht. In an era when travel and socialising are viewed as risky, a customer experience “better be the best you can possibly have, so people want to come back and want to tell everyone else about it.”

This means hospitality is becoming more competitive, especially in terms of how to customize its offerings to meet customers’ expectations. This is just the sort of challenge that suits bright young minds who are “innovative and entrepreneurial” in their thinking, says Behesht. While the industry can still offer exciting international experiences, many of the solutions focus on the local and being available ‘on demand’.

The InterContinental in Geneva is a five-star hotel used to hosting UN dignitaries. Right now, however, the hotel currently offers radically different options. “They’re creating not only staycations but also ‘workcations’, where people come and work for a day or stay a week at the hotel,” states Behesht. “The hotel is also starting to offer takeaways or home delivery for previous guests who love the Sunday buffet brunch. They’re completely reshaping their offering to suit the market.” Personalized offerings for customers, including group activities, will be vital in future, he says, rather than simply a fixed price list for customers to choose from.

Is your teenager interested in shaping the culinary trends of the future? Explore SSHL’s Business and Hospitality Management programme today

Soft skills at the centre

Creative problem-solving is clearly one much-needed skill in the hospitality trade, along with a service-oriented way of thinking. What other skills will students be trained to develop? According to Behesht, an increased emphasis on customer experience means interpersonal skills will be crucial.

While a growing focus on smooth use of digital technology and hygiene considerations is desirable, it could also make customer relationships overly “clinical”. “When something becomes clinical, you take away the flavour,” he says. “So, you need to add the soft social skills like emotional intelligence and good communication to create the enhanced value that people will invest money and time for.”

The aim, he says, is to build lasting customer relationships by combining “excellence and empathy”. Nor are these skills only relevant in hospitality. Behesht tells us many industries are “seeing the value of our students” with Tesla among the leading companies to have joined Swiss Education Group’s career fairs in the hunt for interns.

(Pic SSHL)

From Sweden, the world becomes your playground

SSHL is due to launch the hospitality programme in August this year. All teaching is in English, other than an element in the  mother tongue of individual students. Work placements and optional internships take place with a number of partners, close to SSHL.

“Internships usually set students up for a great entry in management trainee positions in the top ranks,” says Behesht. The experience is of huge value, with students from more than 110 countries taking part. “Walk through our campuses and the world will come to you,” he adds.

Students who choose the hospitality programme at SSHL will also study three IB Diploma Programme subjects to prepare them for further studies. After completing the programme, students are ready to go directly into work in the industry or to enter higher education in the field. Students could also potentially get credits to support their development when attending César Ritz Colleges to further their studies. 

Behesht, who is Swedish and grew up in Gotland, wishes he had discovered such a possibility himself when he was a teenager. “I always did summer jobs as a waiter when I was 16, 17,” he recalls. “Nobody ever told me you could study a proper business programme that is very much focused on the real world and hospitality. “What we offer is really a school of life: when you leave, you’re up to the challenge.”

Know an innovative and empathetic teenager? Find out more about the IBCP Business and Hospitality Management programme, due to launch at SSHL from August 2021

Member comments

  1. While granny and more Asians were beaten and shot, the rumors of an outbreak led to the Asian community being misunderstood and hurt by the fact that the culprits were sitting in their comfort zones as innocent people enjoying the pleasures of human blood.

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‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”


At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.”