Galway Mayo Institute of Technology: Creating work ready professionals for The Hospitality & Tourism Industry

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology

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The Tourism industry is the largest indigenous employer in Ireland with a workforce of 260,000 pre-COVID-19. The Irish “Céad Mile Fáilte’ is synonymous all over the world so it is of no surprise that we find Ireland’s leading Hotel School located in the Irish capital of Arts and Tourism and this year’s European Capital of Culture – Galway.

Nestled on the west coast of Ireland Galway is the only city on the Wild Atlantic Way, the now-famous Irish coastal drive stretching from Donegal to Cork. The Tourism industry is vibrant all along this route and it is well served and supported by Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and the well-established Galway International Hotel School. Tourism spans across sectors such as restaurants, hotels, and food-related businesses. Students who want to build a career in this global industry will hugely benefit from an accredited award from any of the leading international Hotel Schools however few higher education Institutes will have a school entirely dedicated to this fascinating industry. Welcome to Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and the Galway International Hotel School, home to Ireland’s leading International school supporting the Tourism industry and the first higher education provider in Ireland to award a degree in Hotel Management in 1977. The school has come a long since these days and is a valued and strategic partner for tourism industry bodies in Ireland and beyond.

Rich and vibrant history in higher education

Since its inception in 1972, GMIT has been tasked with serving the West of Ireland’s educational needs. Today, it is one of the leading educational institutes in Ireland that offer first-class education, an English-speaking environment, and rich European and Irish cultural experiences. It has also been awarded as the Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the year on three occasions—2004, 2007, and 2015 respectively.

GMIT comprises of five campuses in the West of Ireland. The headquarters are located on the main Galway Campus (home to the Schools of Business, Engineering, Hotel, Science & Computing). Also in the city you will find the Galway School of Design and Creative Arts, which is home to courses in Film & Documentary, Contemporary Arts and Design. This campus is also home to RTE, the national state broadcaster, Galway Film Centre and the UNESCO City of Film office , this designation was bestowed on Galway in 2014. The second department in this school can be found 80km west of the city at  GMIT Letterfrack (home to the National Centre for Excellence in Furniture Design and Manufacturing). The third campus , east of Galway city is GMIT Mountbellew  and this team offers a small number of courses in Agriculture Science, Agriculture Engineering and Business. Finally, the final campus is located in the picturesque country town of Castlebar, Co Mayo. Only 70km from Galway city GMIT Mayo is located on the grounds of Mayo University Hospital and is home to courses in Nursing, Social Care, Early Childhood Education, Outdoor Education, and many other disciplines.

GMIT’s Galway International Hotel School has expanded over the last fifty years and has matured into a truly international school. Many of the staff, both faculty and the support team have worked across Europe in the tourism industry and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the school. The curriculum is very internationally focused as a result of global engaged with many leading industry partners and alumni. This ensures the school graduates are work-ready or able to start their own enterprise after completion of their course. The students voice is an important part of the school ethos and their input is sought throughout the academic year. Each class has one or two student representatives and these nominees sit on programme boards with faculty and managers and inform the school team on all aspects of their learning. When the school engages in programme reviews and curriculum development the student input is a vital part of that process. When the school develops new marketing material or promotes courses or opportunities to other learners it is very common to hear from students at these events as they take pride in being part of a special school and organization. As a result the relationships between the faculty and students and managers are very professional, open and constructive. Faculty instigate an open-door policy often meetings students to provide extra support outside of class if a student falls behind or struggles with a project or assessment. This type of interaction is very common across GMIT where faculty will go above and beyond for students who are committed to their studies and work hard. However, if you fail to show up for class or skip assessments you might expect a different style of engagement when you next meet your lecturer in the classroom.

Imbibing latest trends in Courses

All courses developed in the Galway International Hotel School are student-centered, and industry-focused providing students with the essential skills they need to begin a career in the Tourism industry. Furthermore, courses host guest lectures and masterclasses are typically offered by leading industry personnel. As part of the course, the faculty schedule visits to industry partners for students, and specific courses include a mandatory European education tour. Also, all courses have a mandatory work placement component as part of the course, thereby ensuring that all students spend time working with industry practitioners and learning form the best.

This style of engagement, accredited work placement, industry visits or masterclasses ensures students are learning from approved industry partners. It also provides the school with an opportunity to ensure students are learning the latest industry trends and clearly demonstrates how agile and nimble good tourism leaders need to be in this ever-changing world.

Student-Centric Campus Environment

Students’ growth, both academically and socially, while being members of the campus community is a significant part of the university’s success. The campus environment across all five campuses varies due to the geographical location, but one trait they all have in common is the ‘student-centered’ focus. To create a student-friendly environment, students and staff are on first name terms. Managers across schools and functions are available and accessible to students. GMIT has an outstanding team working across Student Services and Academic Affairs who provide many supports to students if and when needed. The main campus hosts a small medical unit, a counselling service, a chaplaincy to support spiritual needs and a team of administers who can guide students in the right direction. In addition, this team is home to the Institute’s vibrant Careers and Employment Service which provides many different support tools for students when seeking employment and graduate opportunities.

At the Galway International Hotel School students also have access to facilities such as training restaurants and specialized kitchens, lecture theatres, demonstration theatre, food, beverage, and food science labs. In addition to the usual dining choices on campus, students are permitted and encouraged to use the Galway International Hotel School’s training restaurants. These facilities offer genuinely accessible dining options for students from Monday to Friday. With such a vast range of student services, supports, and activities, Galway International Hotel School is a great school to learn and thrive for students.

For many students, sport is an integral part of life, and the Institute supports this in many ways. The Students Union, located on all campuses runs many different societies including sporting clubs for Soccer, GAA (Irish football, hurling and camogie), Archery, Rugby, Basketball, Cricket, Water-sports and Cheerleading but to name some.

Financial Aid

Today’s skyrocketing cost of higher education is not affordable for many families. GMIT understands this and offers support to students in a number of ways. In addition, students who come from within the EU are eligible to pay only the student contribution fee. However if students are from outside of the EU, the Institute offers very competitive fees and some scholarship opportunities. For more information on international fees and scholarship opportunities please check out the website at https://www.gmit.ie/international/non-eu-scholarships

The world is your oyster – accredited work placement and more

Ensuring any industry has a vibrant talented work force is the responsibility of governments worldwide. Tourism is undoubtedly a truly global industry and at GMIT ensuring students are ready for all aspects of work placement is a key focus for staff in the LINKS Office at the Galway International Hotel School. This small team work with all students to help them prepare for work placement and find exciting graduate opportunities as they reach the end of their course. GMIT opened the LINKS Office in 2008 and the teamwork with over 500 students annually. All degree programmes have thirty-week placements, some in Ireland but many overseas. Due to a global alumni network and a dedicated LINKS Office team these placements are located across all five continents ensuring students truly can learn from the best.

In addition to the above, the LINKS Office team also organise and host the annual Tourism Careers Fair in early spring. This is one of the many collaborative highlights in the school academic year as more than 80 employers from around the world attend this event to meet students and discuss their career opportunities or work placement needs. Many students have organized career options long before the final examinations start and this provides a huge sense of achievement as they are nearing the end of their course.

New plans for students and industry

Cáit Noone, the Head of School and Vice President of International Engagement, is very optimistic about the future of the tourism industry and believes that it can adapt when required to do so. She joined the GMIT in November 2007, having worked overseas for sixteen years. She is joined on the School Management Team by two every experienced industry practitioners–Jacinta Dalton, Head of Culinary Arts and the Service Industries and Diarmuid ÓConghaile, Head of Heritage and Tourism, Languages, Communications, and Humanities. Cáit believes that this current global pandemic COVID-19 has presented opportunities for higher education to embrace innovation and think differently. Delivering courses with social distancing is presenting new challenges but moving all learning online is simply not an option as courses across GMIT have practical components, a feature enjoyed by many students and truly unique practice in Irish Institutes of Technology.  “Faculty are currently working on developing a hybrid model of delivery from September which will allow us to deliver some classes on campus and the remainder online. This means students can still continue with their preferred course of study once they are allowed to travel”.

Moreover, schools like the Galway International Hotel School are full of bright, talented, creative minds, and that is just the students!  No one is keen to investigate how students might be part of the COVID-19 industry solution. Faulty in our school often work with industry partners on business-related challenges, we will be looking to struggling businesses to continue working with us and we will be keen to hear from students as to their proposed solutions. In addition, the school team is keen to work with industry partners to encourage them to use this downtime to continue their professional development. With some of the courses moving online for September this could be the right time for upgrading qualifications or learning a new skill. She further states, “Technology has allowed us to change how we do our business. Now, let us use technology to do what we need to restart or change our business model.  As experienced educators and industry partners, our brains are often tired because we know the roadblocks ahead, leaners in the classroom are often not inhibited by such blocks and find ways around problems that we may have not considered.

The Future is Bright

In today’s ever-changing world, strategic planning is a keystone for higher education organizations and GMIT is no different. In April 2019 Ireland’s Minister for Higher Education, Ms. Mary Mitchell O’Connor, officially launched the new strategic plan that will take GMIT to 2024. The new strategic plan represents the next stage of GMIT’s growth as it transitions to a Technological University (TU) together with its CUA partners, Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT), and Institute of Technology Sligo (ITS). This plan aims to provide a transformative university experience for students, empowering graduates to fully contribute to the social, economic, and cultural enrichment of society.

This new plan has significantly informed and influenced the new strategic plan recently developed by the Galway International Hotel School strategic committee. Noone is not giving away too much as to how this plan will evolve but it is clear with the arrival of Dr Orla Flynn President at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and a clearly defined roadmap for GMIT to work towards becoming Ireland’s next Technological University the Galway International Hotel School will feature in this new entity as it continues to serve the region, island and global tourism industry.

Read Full Post: The 10 Best Hospitality Management Institutes of 2020



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