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Walo, MA 2000, 'The contribution of internship in developing industry-relevant management competencies in tourism and hospitality graduates', Masters thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright MA Walo 2000


Industry practitioners and educators both agree that tourism and hospitality management curricula need to reflect recent and future industry needs and developments, to ensure graduates are equipped with appropriate and industry-relevant skills. Furthermore, the combination of theory with practice is viewed as an essential component of a student’s tourism and hospitality management education. In the past, limited attempts have been made to provide empirical support to claims that a practical internship experience develops management competence in tourism and hospitality management students. In addition, Australian research into the management competencies employers in tourism and hospitality industries expect of recent graduates is minimal. Given the proliferation of tourism and hospitality-related courses over the past decade and the relative importance attributed to internship in developing students’ management competencies, such evaluations are considered important.

Thus, this study focused on three main research objectives which were; to identify the management competencies that managers of organisations within tourism and hospitality industries expect of recent tourism and hospitality graduates; to determine whether students’ management competencies are developed during the internship component of Southern Cross University’s Bachelor of Business in Tourism degree; and to determine whether the management competencies of Southern Cross University’s Bachelor of Business in Tourism students meet the expectations of selected managers of organisations in four tourism and hospitality sectors.

The study utilised the 24 management competencies and eight roles of Quinn, Thompson, Faerman and McGrath’s (1990) Competing Values Framework (CVF) to test two research hypotheses. The first hypothesis proposed that students’ pre-internship mean scores will be significantly lower than their post-internship mean scores with respect to the 24 management competencies and eight managerial roles associated with Quinn et al.’s (1990) Competing Values Framework. The second hypothesis proposed that students’ post-internship mean scores will not be significantly lower than the selected managers’ mean scores with respect to the 24 management competencies and eight managerial roles associated with Quinn et al.’s (1990) Competing Values Framework. A specific survey instrument, the Self Assessment of Managerial Skills (DiPadova, 1990), was used to survey managers within four sectors of Australian tourism and hospitality industries and Bachelor of Business in Tourism internship students from Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia. Students were surveyed before and after internship.

The study found that students’ perceptions of their level of managerial competence had significantly increased after the completion of their internship placement in six of the 24 management competencies and three of the eight managerial roles, thus partially supporting the first research hypothesis. Further, it was found that pre-internship, students perceived these six competencies were their weakest competency areas, with one exception - Presenting Information by Writing Effectively. This suggests that internship has complemented competencies developed during their coursework. The study also found that after completing internship, students’ perceptions of their managerial competence were reasonably congruent with the expectations of this sample of managers, thus supporting the second research hypothesis.

In this study students’ post-internship competencies were found to be reasonably aligned with Quinn, Faerman and Dixit’s (1987) research which examined the relationship between management competencies and hierarchical levels in an organisation. Empirical data collected from the students and the managers, identified students’ management profiles preand post-internship and the management profile that managers expect of recent graduates. These profiles resembled Quinn’s (1991) description of a Master Manager. These findings suggest that internship has assisted students in moving closer to the competence required of a Master Manager.

The study concludes that the internship component of a student’s tourism and hospitality education can hold real educational benefits in preparing them for future management roles. Also, as entry level graduates, this cohort of students has the ability to demonstrate competence over a range of transferable generic management competencies and should be effectively equipped to undertake a range of managerial opportunities that may be presented to them. The study demonstrates the importance of conducting empirically based evaluation to provide support to the debate on the true educational value of internship and highlights the need for further research in this area. It also demonstrates the application of the eight management roles and 24 management competencies of the CVF (Quinn et al., 1990) to tourism and hospitality industries.

With the recent proliferation of tourism and hospitality management programs, tertiary education providers are now being held more accountable for the courses they offer. Curricula must reflect the changing needs of industry. Research in collaboration with tourism and hospitality industries must continue to ensure that courses offered are not only relevant but are also producing graduates with skills and knowledge they will need as future managers.