Enhancing professionalism through the Continuing Education of Micro and Small Tourism Enterprises: A Model for Programme Development

Jennifer Hussey, Patrick Lynch, Mary T. Holden, Anthony Foley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper originates in the context of growing recognition that the success of the global tourism industry will ultimately depend on the professionalism of its workforce (Edgell et al., 2008). Indeed, as far back as 1986, Baum and Reid highlighted the need for professionalism in the Irish hospitality sector. More recently, the Tourism Policy Review Group (TPRG) report (2003, p. 54) targeted the need for enhanced professionalism in the fragmented, SME-dominated Irish industry (cf. Travers et al., 2004). However, while a general consensus exists on the merits of higher levels of professionalism, and education‘s role as a key driver of the professionalisation process is undisputed, continuing education for owner/managers of micro/small businesses is problematic (Kelliher et al., 2009). While the larger tourism businesses benefit from a graduate management intake and continuing executive development, the owner of the small tourism operation is limited in their professional development and face barriers to both access to and engagement in education associated with their scale, specifically their resource poverty and the bind of the workplace (Fáilte Ireland, 2004; Morrison and Teixera, 2004). In light of the foregoing, Fáilte Ireland began a tendering process for the delivery of a degree-level programme for owner/managers of micro/small business enterprises to address this deficit, and the authors‘ tertiary institute was successful in this process. A new three-year Bachelor of Science in Small Enterprise Management (BSc), based on an andragogical philosophy and problem-based learning approach (PBL), was developed during the 2009-2010 academic year. This paper details the BSc‘s development; it will provide insights into how the particular sector-specific challenges were met through a creative and innovative programme, tailor-made to be responsive to its specific audience‘s major needs for a sense of involvement, relevance and flexibility both in content and delivery (Storey and Westhead, 1997; Moon et al., 2005). While there is an awareness of the potential enhancement of professionalism that PBL offers (Nilsson, 2007), Strobel and Van Barneveld‘s (2009) meta-analysis of the literature highlighted a lack of consensus on the impact of PBL on learning outcomes. This paper will add to the extant literature on PBL by addressing the first stages in the operationalisation of the BSc initiative to enhance professionalism which involved substantial interaction with stakeholders (Fáilte Ireland discussions, round-table discussions and pilot study with potential students, and post pilot study interviews with participants). In addition to elaborating on the feedback to date from the pilot-study, the authors present their observations on the significance of these initial findings and the implications for the programme development team and industry stakeholders. Finally, although the BSc is specific to a particular sector, it is perceived that this paper, which reports on the first stages of a longitudinal study on the programme‘s learning impact, should provide guidelines to other educators who are responsible for the development of higher education for adult learners who are owner/managers of micro/small business enterprises.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Event13th Annual Irish Academy of Management Conference - Cork Institute of Technology, Cork Institute of Technology
Duration: 01 Jan 2010 → …


Conference13th Annual Irish Academy of Management Conference
CityCork Institute of Technology
Period01/01/2010 → …


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