ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT COOPERATION IN AZERBAIJAN TOURISM INDUSTRY
The aim of this article is to investigate the university-industry cooperation influence on further tourism personnel potential development in Azerbaijan. Although tourism in Azerbaijan continues to grow it faces considerable challenges in the field of personnel potential. It is well-known that tourism industry has criticised tourism education for not adequately training people for employment in the industry. Unfortunately today the majority of workforce in the tourism industry of Azerbaijan consists of foreigners and this proves that there is a gap between tourism education and industry in Azerbaijan. If there is a gap between the outcomes expected in the tourism industry and tourism education, sustainable development is impossible to be achieved in that sphere. In order to understand the reasons leading to that gap, the article analyzes the infrastructure of the existing tourism educational establishments in Azerbaijan and recommends that cooperation between education and industry be created. The survey involves tourism industry and education as well as the attitudes of students and tourism employees towards such a partnership. Students who study at tourismrelated establishments and employees who work in the tourism sector were surveyed and their opinions and needs regarding the collaboration were analysed. The survey was conducted for both university students and tourism firms in order to obtain data and make a comparable analysis. The study shows that limited research in Azerbaijan, however, has systematically explored what the tourism industry needs, and the extent to which tourism higher education meets these needs. Consequently, the graduates and tourism industry representatives suggested that there should be a close collaboration between the educators and the industries. Representatives of the survey made suggestions related to cooperation such as relations between industry representatives and tourism enterprises, which have to be consultative, exchange programmes have to be implemented, and independent tourism awards have to be established. .