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“Founded in 2015, Ferrières, (group Accelis) offers a distinctive surrounding, aligned with its standards of excellence and the philosophy of outstanding service. The 19th century castle, once owned by Baron James de Rothschild, is set in a sublime setting lush with greenery.
It is through the vision of Khalil Khater, president and founder of Accelis group, for how to establish a luxury-oriented educational project, targeting the young generation, that this project saw the light.
Ferrières school’s course of study, with both craftmanship an innovation as its backbones, attracted hospitality and luxury enthusiasts, especially because it puts students at the center of its educational vision.
Krumma Jonsdottir, newly appointed Managing Director at Groupe Accelis Education, built extensive skills in introducing behavioral science in education. She boasts a 20-year experience in the luxury hospitality sector (Starwood and IHG groups).
She explains how the school is now positioning itself as the preferred partner of luxury establishments thanks to its positive learning environment, a key element that allowed Ferrières to maintain its instructional pace and adapt quickly to the current crisis.
Vendom. Jobs – What are the educational strengths that distinguish Ferrières from other schools in the hospitality and the high-end food&beverage sectors ? What is the guiding principle of the institution?
Krumma Jonsdottir – Ferrières‘ mission is to be the top choice of the industry’s professionals. This means giving students the right resources to be fully operational and employable upon graduation, but also equip them to create a successful and balanced professional and personal life.
V.J. – One of Ferrières’ specifities is to integrate behavioral and cognitive sciences into its teaching. How does the daily implementation of this practice look like ?
K. J. – When designing our programs, we followed the latest research in cognitive psychology and applied the most modern learnings of positive psychology. We also added courses designed around well-being, optimism, resilience, and we even included courage and ignorance. The Ferrières Wellness Project regularly brings together students from our two schools, alumni, parents and partners around workshops tackling mindfulness and personal development.
Additionally, students benefit from individual coaching sessions, which help them improve their performance or handle tricky personal situations.
V.J. – What about your faculty members? How do you select them?
K. J. – We get a large number of applications each week, and this interest coming from academics and professionals flatters us.
Today, Ferrières brings together a team of about 30 fulltime teachers and over 80 part-time faculty members. The selection is made over two phases. A first interview is conducted with the academic director to assess the expertise, and a second interview with the management to assess social and interpersonal skills. Then, we let the candidate run a Masterclass around a subject he is good at. We need to see them in action and observe their interaction with the students.
In Ferrières, there are no lectures, there are only workshops and activities in which students participate actively. The speaker must have the ability to spark debates and engage with students.
According to us, even if professionals are brilliant in their own fields, they might not embrace teaching, since the task is very demanding and can be emotionally draining.
The candidate we usually retain gets to participate in the induction workshop “Ferrières’ transmission of knowledge according to excellence standards” to get acquainted with our teaching methods. All our lecturers are asked to participate in an annual “FET” workshop to uphold the quality of their teaching.
V.J. – In the service industries, where communication and interaction between people are paramount, have you been able to overcome the distance hurdle with your students? How did this affect them?
K. J. – Yes. The close bonds we gradually built with our students and our personal development workshops improved the resilience and the positive attitude of our students. In fact, our studies and surveys show that most of them are actually doing well, despite the situation they are going through.
We are fortunate to fall into the category of a technical institution, so we were able to accommodate small groups of students for practical work sessions. Since the first lockdown, Ferrières has been operating in hybrid mode. Whenever students went on isolation to protect a family member or because they were sick themselves, they still got to attend class remotely.
In fact, we have some fun facts about this:
The food and wine pairings made with random food from the fridge, the hotel’s inviting bedding recreated in the parents’ room, botany course inspired by the family garden or the final jury session on Teams live from Peru, Italy or the US.
Moreover, each course was restructured to adapt to the circumstances, and to achieve that, Ferrières staff and the entire community outdid themselves and proved very efficient. The hands-on sessions were replaced with new modules and projects that allowed our staff and students to better respond and adapt to this unprecedented situation.
V.J. – The school is still young, but do you already have a visibility over the career prospects of your graduates?
K. J. – The first cohort of undergraduate students graduated in 2016 and since then, we welcomed 270 alumni, both undergraduates and postgraduates. The alumni association and members of the school’s board are often in contact with them and follow up on their career evolution. 90% of our graduates are now employed in the hospitality sector, in various disciplines. Salespeople, sommeliers, Maître d’hôtels, revenue managers, luxury shop managers, entrepreneurs, department heads are some of the positions they currently hold.
V.J. – What do you think should be improved to make the high-end hotel and food&beverage jobs more attractive?
K. J. – There should be more awareness around the work hours. We often hear about low pay in our beautiful industry. Even if despite this, real passionates still seek jobs in our industry, the fact remains that the overall package remains unattractive.
The industry is not succeeding at retaining its talents, especially the ones in their thirties and forties. With the exception of some big hotel chains, our industry is lagging behind when it comes to responding to the employees’ needs and addressing the evolution of the society.
Human resources and general management should adjust their corporate image and establish a clearer vision to allow young people to better manage their careers and perform better their tasks.
V.J. – What is it that will make the standards of excellence more distinct in the future? What message would you send to young people who want to devote themselves to these jobs?
K. J. – To be driven by passion and by generosity. Excellence is not in the product or in the service itself but in the emotion that stems from the experience.
If you thrive in dynamic and social situations, if you are curious and persistent, then hospitality jobs are a solid fit for you.”