Tourism: A case study in cooperation
South Australian Department of Technical and Further Education
In February 1985 the South Australian Department of Technical and Further Education (DTAFE) commenced a three year course designed to meet the training needs of the State's tourism industry. The course was the outcome of an intensive development process pursued jointly by DTAFE and the South Australian Tourism and Hospitality Industry Training Committee (SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC). This industry training committee was seen as the appropriate "voice of the tourism industry" in the State, with its tripartite (employer - employee - government) membership and its links with the National Training Council (an advisory committee reporting to the then Federal Minister of Employment and Industrial Relations). The curriculum process, which involved receiving advice from a wide range of tourist organisations and key personnel from within South Australia, from interstate and from overseas, ensured that the course was both relevant and acceptable to the industry. This was confirmed when the course won a State award in its category in 1986 and was runner-up at the national level.
This curriculum case study describes what is believed to be a unique joint industry-TAFE approach to the design, development and implementation of a flexible multi-level course which will prepare individuals to operate in a variety of occupations in a major growth industry.
What is tourism?
As curriculum developers are aware, one of the most difficult parts of the curriculum process is the definition of the area which the course is intended to cover. The area of tourism proved particularly complex. In a growth industry, attracting both State and Federal government support, the "hype" is usually in advance of the reality. However, in South Australia, prior to course development, there had been well established plans supported by the State Government to upgrade tourism because of projects such as the Casino, Convention Centre and the Grand Prix. Thus the need for trained personnel was not in doubt; what was unknown was the number of people required and the occupations which they would fill. In order to obtain this information it was necessary first to define the tourism industry. Two definitions were considered.
A study of man away from his usual habitat, of the industry which responds to his needs, and of the impacts that both he and the industry have on the host socio-cultural, economic, and physical environments (Jafari & Ritchie, 1981, p.15).
An economical and social phenomena encompassing travel by all persons on trips beyond 30 kilometres from their place of normal residence for any reason other than commuting to their place of work (SA Government, n.d., Appendix 3).
These definitions, however, were seen as being very broad and not very helpful in providing a rationale for the course. Because of the State Government's clearly stated support for the development of tourist attractions in South Australia, and following discussions with key personnel in the tourism industry, it was decided that the course be based on the concept of South Australia as a tourist destination (ie, in-bound tourism, rather than out- bound tourism). This meant that the course would be entrepreneurial in that it would be designed to train persons to identify, develop and run tourist attractions in the State and to market these on a national and international basis. The course was thus seen as quite separate from the travel course already operating in the Department, which is aimed at training travel consultants involved in sending people out of the State. It was separate also from the hotel and catering management course, designed to train personnel in the hospitality industry. The course rationale was later confirmed by the writer during a visit in November 1985 to the United Kingdom where the UK Government was trying not only to attract more visitors to the country, but also to encourage the British to "holiday at home" rather than spend the usual two to three weeks "on the continent" (Furber, 1986). This emphasis was clearly reflected in the degree and diploma courses under development at a number of British tertiary educational institutions.
The curriculum development process
Development of the SA tourism course followed the traditional pathway of occupation identification, need and demand survey, curriculum writing, document approval and accreditation. It included the necessary validation loops with industry, other education institutions, TAFE lecturing staff and accreditation bodies. The major difference in the development of this course was not the process itself, but the degree of involvement of the industry in the process. It was considered important that all relevant interested groups and individuals be canvassed. This ensured that a sound communication-information network with appropriate feedback loops were set up and maintained. The joint industry-TAFE approach was seen as an important mechanism by which industry advice could be channelled and the process streamlined.
In South Australia there were three key groups involved in the curriculum process
The role of TEASA was to bring together representatives from the various tertiary education institutions (Universities, CAEs, DTAFE) and the Department of Tourism to reach agreement on such issues as the level of the courses, the most appropriate tertiary institution(s) to offer the course(s) and possible articulation guidelines. When these issues were discussed at a series of meetings of the Heads of the educational institutions and government departments, agreement was reached that DTAFE was the most appropriate institution to offer the course. This enabled TEASA to approve the introduction of the course and to set up an inter-educational institution working party to consider any future articulation issues.
Then followed an exchange of letters of intent between DTAFE and the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC. This resulted in the formalizing of a joint agreement in which DTAFE contracted the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC to develop a tourism course based on the results of a survey of the industry.
The actual process involved the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC conducting an industry survey, using the results of this survey to develop job profiles, and designing and developing an appropriate course structure and syllabus content. This was achieved in practical terms by setting up a working party with representatives from DTAFE, the Department of Tourism and the industry to act as a consultant monitoring group. The Executive Officer of the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC, also a member of the working party, arranged the industry survey and the curriculum writing using DTAFE funds. There were two reasons for dealing with the project in this way.
The course which was designed to meet the requirements revealed by the industry survey, contains a number of interesting features. The course structure is a multi-stage educational programme allowing three exit levels which are related to job profiles in the industry and which were identified in the survey. The following diagram shows the relationship between each of the three stages and the occupations for which graduates will be eligible.
The structure provides a number of entry points to enable students with appropriate academic qualifications and/or experience to gain access to the course and to obtain skills and knowledge appropriate to their individual career aspirations. Offering the subjects on both a full- and part-time basis enables mature students in the industry to undertake appropriate retraining necessary to keep them up to date in their jobs. These individual subjects then can be accumulated into an award, if so required and if completed within a reasonable length of time. The course also includes a cultural and ethnic studies subject, dealing with cultural features of different countries, and basic language skills. The countries chosen were those from which South Australia receives most of its tourists.
Stage II includes an industry placement segment in which students are expected to obtain relevant experience in the workplace. The objective of the industry placement programme is to provide relevant practical experience for students by exposing them to systems of operations, personnel and management. Students are expected to gain an appreciation of company policies and the philosophies and goals of a particular organisation facility; this may include an air, sea or coach operation, a convention or resort facility, a State Government tourism department or a local Government Council. The programme is supervised and regular contact between participating employers, students and TAFE course supervisors is an integral part of the industry placement programme.
A choice of subjects has been included (in Stage II) to allow students to undertake appropriate training in an area relevant to their career aspirations. The students are given the opportunity to extend particular skills by choosing subjects from other disciplines within the TAFE system or from other tertiary institutions. These elective subjects might include such areas as language, computing, marketing, wine studies or National Parks and Wildlife studies.
The final project in Stage III provides the students with an opportunity to combine all facets of the course into a final research project related to their particular career path. It is intended that the project has practical applicability in the industry.
The course, when first implemented in February, 1985, was offered at the School of Food and Catering, Regency College. However, with the building of the new Adelaide College in the city, all travel and tourism courses were transferred to the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the new College. Students thus commenced their second year of studies in February, 1986, at the Adelaide College city campus.
Of major concern to any officer involved in the development and implementation of curricula is its continuing relevance to both students and employers. In the case of the course in tourism, this was seen as particularly important and the rationale on which the course was designed to be different from similar courses in other States.
This ongoing relevance was achieved in two ways. Firstly, formal industry advice was received from both the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC (to which the Director-General of TAFE had agreed to refer curriculum matters for advice and endorsement) and a specially constituted Department of TAFE Travel and Tourism Advisory Group, which contained industry representatives from both the travel and tourism sectors. This second group acted both as a sub-committee of the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC, providing specialist advice to the Committee, and as a group to whom the Head of School of Tourism and Hospitality could refer for curriculum and operational advice. This group provided an invaluable forum for the discussion and resolution of areas of conflict in the separately developed awards in travel and in tourism.
Secondly, informal feedback is provided by students. This has been obtained since the course's inception by encouraging students to make their feelings and concerns known to the lecturing staff. This informally gathered material is then discussed on a more formal basis by the Head of School and lecturing staff, as part of ongoing course evaluation.
The final step in the curriculum development process was the seal of approval by an accrediting body external to the academic institution. Accreditation and the prior accreditation process were defined in the Act setting up the State's accrediting body (TEASA).
Accreditation, in relation to a course means final approval of the course after the course has been subjected to the accreditation process;
The accreditation process, in relation to a course, means the evaluation of the academic standard of the course and its appropriateness in view of the academic award to which it is intended to lead. (SA Government, 1979, Part I 5(1))
The act of accreditation by this external body in practice, is based on a recommendation received from an assessment committee set up by the accrediting body's secretariat and comprising persons from the private, public and academic sectors. They are asked to make a judgement on whether the course, as defined in the curriculum document, is focused at the appropriate academic level by the educational institution .
The tourism course was submitted to TEASA for accreditation as a Diploma late in 1986 and, at the time of writing, was being assessed. If the assessment committee and the accrediting authority agree to this level of award, the course will be forwarded for national registration by the recently formed Australian Council on Tertiary Awards (ACTA)2.
The TAFE sector prides itself on the relevance of its courses to the client groups and on its reaction time in providing these courses to meet community needs. Reality can be somewhat different, due to influences both internal and external to TAFE. A balance must be found in all TAFE course development between speed and quality.
There is no doubt that the tourism course has been well received by the industry. Through the extensive and thorough advisory process, industry has a large degree of ownership of the course. This has been a vital component in its success, and cannot be emphasized too strongly. The course is seen as unique in Australia and already has received due recognition.
On an ongoing basis, industry representatives are involved, through membership of the two committees described previously, in both curriculum and operational matters. Further, they are actively encouraged to participate in the counselling and choice of students entering the course. Interview teams of College lecturer and industry representative are now the norm in the process of student selection.
The concept of a course with three separate exit points, available to students who, for whatever reason, do not wish to continue, has been accepted and is working well. The basis of these exit points is to enable students to leave with an award which is negotiable in the workplace, as the course has been designed to meet the requirements of specific jobs available in the industry, as outlined previously in this chapter. There is no doubt that this concept will need to be monitored carefully in order to ensure that the job profiles continue to reflect what is happening in the industry.
This is not to say that the development and implementation of the course has been without problems. The major problem resulted from the requirement to respond quickly to industry needs and from plans by the SA Government for the development of tourist attractions in the State. This meant that the course had to be implemented before the detailed curriculum writing could be completed. This has been very much a "two edged sword", as it provides a situation where the curriculum can undergo fine tuning but it does little for the lecturing staff who sometimes have to "fly by the seat of their pants". Lecturing under these conditions has not been easy for those of cautious or nervous disposition! It has allowed the course to grow with the changing economic situation, to a point where there is now a much greater general acceptance of the course's in-bound tourism emphasis. It is probable that the separate out-bound travel course also will undergo some major modifications with possibly a new overall structure based on changing career opportunities which will lock it in more closely with the tourism course. A review of TAFE travel courses in all States has commenced as part of a national TAFE curriculum project. It is anticipated that a national core curriculum will be linked with the registration of travel operators which has already occurred in some States.
A further problem was that of attracting highly experienced and qualified persons from the industry to become full-time course lecturers. In any industry undergoing a period of growth, it is sometimes difficult for individuals to drag themselves away from "where the action is" and take the longer term view of helping the industry grow and providing direction through involvement in education and training. An extensive period of advertising and critical interviewing has ensured that the College now has a dedicated group committed to these goals. During the early stages of implementation, the use of part-time lecturers from the industry was extensive. This helped keep the course relevant and made sure that any academic approach was tempered with practical usefulness. The use of part-time lecturers as experts from the field will be maintained to ensure the course's continuing relevance.
The major lesson emerging from the case study is that it is possible for industry and TAFE to work together on a truly joint project to their mutual benefit. The outcome has been a quality course which meets the needs of both parties, is relevant to the current and future needs of the industry, and is sufficiently attractive and flexible to meet an increasingly diverse and discerning student clientele.
Seventeen months elapsed from the exchange of letters of intent between DTAFE and the SA Tourism and Hospitality ITC to the implementation of the course. The subsequent progressive implementation of the course, whilst still undergoing extensive curriculum writing, is not to be encouraged as a model. However, given an agreed course rationale and sufficient goodwill and degree of ownership on both sides, it is a method which can work.
Adelaide Tourist Association. (1986). Summer newsletter.
Fitzpatrick, G.J. (1985). Tertiary management education - A report on the tourism industry in South Australia. Unpublished report of the SA Tourism and Hospitality Industry Training Committee.
Furber, D.V. (1986). Report on visits to UK educational institutions offering tourism courses. Adelaide: Department of TAFE.
Jafari, J. & Ritchie, J.R.B. (1981). Toward a Framework for tourism education - problems and prospects. Annals of Tourism Research, 8(1),. University of Wisconsin USA Dept of Habitational Resources.
SA Government. South Australian Tourism Development Plan 1982/83-1986/87. A joint Industry Government Plan. National Library of Australia ISBN 0724365079.
SA Government (1979). Tertiary Education Authority Act. Government Printer, South Australia.
Cite as: Furber, D. (1988). Tourism: A case study in cooperation. In C. McBeath, (Ed), Case studies in TAFE curriculum, p.44-49. Perth, WA: West Australian Social Science Education Consortium, Curtin University of Technology. http://www.clare-mcbeath.id.au/case-studies/chap6.html