Voices of the Future – Edge Hotel School youngest ever lecturer, Alexander Horswill.

Alexander Horswill – is an alumni graduate from Edge Hotel School and recently returned to become their youngest ever lecturer. Launching into a career in academia at just 23, Alexander is now a permanent member of staff at the University of Essex and is studying for his PG CHEP with a view to commence his PhD in 2025.

EP proudly provides a platform for the thoughts and voices of the future leaders of the Hospitality industry.

The importance of younger representation in education.

Prior to joining the academic team at the Edge Hotel School, I worked for a management and strategy consulting company in the economic core: London after completing my Masters in 2021. In May 2022, an opportunity arose to join the team as a staff member. Having studied at the Edge Hotel School in 2017, on a two-year accelerated programme reading hotel management I knew this amazing opportunity does not materialise often. My philosophy in life is ‘everything happens for a reason’ and therefore, I applied and a few months later I joined the team.

The school ethos focuses heavily on experiential learning, and as a student, this aligned with my core strengths. As part of the course, I worked in a four-star country house hotel where I developed a variety of key professional skills and industry experience. After completing my studies at the Edge Hotel School, I worked at the hotel as a Duty Manager full-time whilst studying for my Masters, part-time. I had an amazing student experience, and this is what I aim to enthuse on my current students.

The need to stay relevant

The hospitality industry has experienced turbulence and instability in the last five years, and it doesn’t look to cease any time soon. With the UK leaving the EU in 2016, the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, the hospitality industry has been battered and bruised. However, it has shown resilience and togetherness in the last few years during a time of an industry in ‘need’.

Although the industry is typically slow to adapt to technological developments due to the nature of the industry, technology presents a huge opportunity, particularly to stay relevant as a career choice. During covid, the rise of QR codes, keyless entry and smart payments were introduced and this will continue in the future throughout the customer journey. At the Edge Hotel School, the students learn how the industry is embracing change, whilst critically analysing how to balance the adoption of technology whilst conforming to the philosophy of a ‘customer facing industry’.

Additionally, sustainability is a pertinent topic currently in hospitality. Research indicates consumers are now living more of a sustainable lifestyle and subsequently ethical decision making prior to purchasing a product/service is becoming more prevalent. Hence, the hospitality industry should not see the importance of sustainability as a trend, instead recognising it as a ‘must’. Sustainability is at the forefront of the Edge Hotel School’s teaching curriculum and is of increasing importance to this next generation of young people.

The importance of younger representation in education

Diversity in the workplace is so important. It is essential to shape a team around different perspectives and a different way of thinking towards higher education. Admittedly, I am the youngest university lecturer at the University of Essex and one of the youngest in the UK. However, I do not see this as a pressure but more of an opportunity. Fresh from coming out of the higher education system, I have designed teaching centred upon the student experience and core focus of ‘relatability’. Subsequently, since joining I have been involved in changing assessment methods, module delivery and enhancing the student experience.

There’s no two ways about it, the hospitality industry is tough, yet extremely rewarding. In order to relate to young students and get them interested in hospitality careers, I always draw upon my own seven years of experience in hospitality roles in class. If you ask anyone in the industry, the customers make your job rewarding. Seeing them smile, on their big day, celebration, or just socialising with friends – the customers are at the forefront of job satisfaction.

In one of my modules, ‘Customer Behaviour’, complaint handling is discussed, and theory applied. Each student conducts role plays on hypothetical scenarios which may happen in a hotel whilst also practicing responding to reviews online – gearing them up for industry and managers of the future. This is always a fun session on how to handle challenging situations.