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Real-world training to meet a growing demand: educators and industry leaders alike prepare the next generation for service.

Long before we were ready to get back to "business as usual," America was forced to face the economic reality spurred by both the September 11 terror attacks and an impending recession. The words "layoff," "furlough," "downsizing" and "bankruptcy" were showing up in news stories and articles daily, mostly referring to segments of the hospitality and tourism industry--airlines, hotels, restaurants and resorts. But within hours of the attacks, travel industry leaders had made a commitment to fight back.

"A recovery plan was already on the drawing board while most Americans were still looking with horror at the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," said William S. Norman, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), in a recent address on the state of the travel industry. "Within days of the horrific attacks, travel industry leaders approved a comprehensive recovery plan and a message platform: Travel is a fundamental American freedom."

The industry-wide recovery plan--which included delivery of a clear, consistent, universal message to the media; a national print advertising campaign; and a public service campaign--offered reassurance and outstanding travel prices to a shaken populace. Such quick and focused action could be among the reasons that, since the 9-11 attacks, "only a third of travelers have postponed or altered their travel plans, and more than 70 percent have stayed the course."

According to a December 2001 TIA poll, the nation's state tourism directors are "cautiously optimistic" about the economy, with 50 percent anticipating recovery within six months. And TIA National Chair Fred Lounsberry remarked, "Lacking a degree in economics, or even a good divining rod, I'll leave the prognostication to the experts. What I do know is that the travel industry has forged ahead through some of the most challenging times in our history. I am optimistic about the potential before us."

Clearly the hospitality and tourism industry has been affected by 9-11 and the recession, but its leaders are confident about the growth, stability and potential of a segment that employs nearly 15 million of our nation's workforce. Despite the economic climate, the service sector is the most rapidly growing part of the American economy, and it is estimated that by 2010, food service operations alone will require more than 100,000 new managers annually to keep pace with growth.

According to Michael Bartlett, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and executive director of the Hospitality Business Alliance, "the huge boom in hospitality (defined as restaurants, lodging, and travel and tourism), which in 1998 was an $800 billion business, is expected to increase 50 percent by 2010."

So how can the industry prepare for such growth? With solid secondary and postsecondary education programs that introduce youth and young adults to the service industry and prepare the hotel, restaurant and tourism managers of tomorrow. Hospitality education has grown considerably over the last three decades, with more than 1,000 college-level programs in the United States. "The next step in this evolution," says Bartlett, "is to ensure that America's 25,000 high schools adopt a variety of hospitality courses and school-to-career opportunities, so young people have the opportunity to choose a career in hospitality."

Hospitality Business Alliance

The Hospitality Business Alliance (HBA), an initiative of the NRAEF in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, offers two high school curricula--ProStart Food Service and Lodging Management--to foster a nationwide system of high school hospitality education. The HBA has set its sights on having 5,000 high schools enroll 50,000 students in hospitality courses over the next 10 years. By creating courses linked with mentored worksite experiences, the HBA has accumulated a total of 26,319 students, 786 schools and 2,965 internship positions in 37 states. The educational program is the first initiative to deliver an industry. written curriculum linked with mentored internship requiring individualized industry experience through a nationwide program.

"The success of our programs can be attributed to outstanding partnerships with businesses around the country, the highly focused curriculum, countless dedicated teachers and mentors and, of course, the students, who not only learn business skills in the classroom, but gain the practical experience they'll need to succeed in the industry," says Linda Hoops, NRAEF/HBA Director of Academic Relations.

Hoops' commitment to the belief that it's never too early to introduce children to the wide range of career options available to them is shared by educators around the country, many of whom work tirelessly to create practical, innovative and challenging hospitality-oriented programs for at-risk and special needs teenagers. Among them are Suzi Alter and Nancy Kitzmiller of Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Warren, Ohio, located just north of Youngstown.

Trumbull Career and Technical Center's Hospitality Services

Suzi Alter and Nancy Kitzmiller oversee Hospitality Services at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, a two-year program designed to prepare special needs students from 15 area schools for work in hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, hotels, resorts and public facilities. Recognized as a promising secondary program by the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education (NDC-CTE) in 2001, Trumbull's Hospitality Services opens its doors each year to 18 students--this year, 11 juniors and seven seniors--who participate in job stations within the school and at nearby St. Joseph's Health Center, rotating through a variety of assignments. In addition to taking required English, math and science courses, first-year students spend three hours each day gaining hands-on experience in housekeeping, laundry services, dietary services, banquet setup and facility care.

"Most of our students come into the program knowing very little about the real world," says Kitzmiller, who oversees the first-year students. "Our curriculum is a big change for them. But our small class size allows for constant one-on-one attention and lets students grow and learn at their own pace."

By the time students move on to the second year, they've already operated a catering business, prepared and hosted banquets, acted as tour guides for visiting home-school and community groups, given oral presentations and begun mentoring prospective students. Throughout the second year, students take English, government and theory classes while working alongside employees of St. Joseph's Health Center in housekeeping, dietary services, central supply, medical records, transport, purchasing and environmental services.

"The role of the employee/mentor is critical to the success of our program," says Alter, who oversees the second-year students. "They provide the patience, kindness, constant communication and willingness to teach that is essential to keeping these kids headed in the right direction."

Both Alter and Kitzmiller can see a dramatic difference in the behavior, attitude and abilities of their students by the end of their second year. "When they walk out having completed the program," says Kitzmiller, "they're certainly not the same children who tentatively walked in at the beginning of their first year." Some will return to Trumbull to participate in its Option IV program to receive paid employment using their new skills. Some will return to broaden their skill base in other vocational areas, and many simply graduate and enter the workforce.

Alter and Kitzmiller are confident that their program will serve a need long into the future, regardless of a faltering economy. "Until they can build a machine to make beds, maintain facilities, assist the elderly or provide catering," says Kitzmiller, "there will always be positions in the service industry."

Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development's Culinary Arts and Hospitality Services

One of the first secondary programs in the nation to earn Access American Culinary Federation (ACF) certification, the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Services of the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development in Cincinnati, Ohio, draws its students from 36 affiliated school districts throughout southwestern Ohio. The two-year program, recognized as exemplary by the NDC-CTE for 2001, provides students with technical knowledge and skills as well as hands-on experience in menu development, ordering, decor, marketing and food preparation.

The school day at Great Oaks consists of a two-and-a-half-hour lab, a course on employability and continuous quality improvement, and three to four academic classes--such as biology, English, social studies, communications and algebra--which blend traditional curriculum with applied career focus. Students work in a well-equipped kitchen and bake shop and a 110-seat dining room to learn the basics of food handling and preparation, recipe and formula applications, and work and service skills. They then apply their skills to regular lunch, banquet and catering services.

In addition to lab and course work, the program includes visits by vendors, industry chefs, entrepreneurs and college recruiters; opportunities for internships, externships, job shadowing and youth apprenticeships; and membership in the Junior Chapter of the Greater Cincinnati ACF and the Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America. The program's innovative "A Taste of the World" project allows students to prepare and present exhibits and tastings based on group research on various regions of the world. Entirely student-run and visited by more than 200 people, the exhibit culminates with each student team presenting a portfolio containing information on their region's geography, culture and recipes and a profit/loss statement.

Upon graduation, most students pursue either employment or postsecondary education in culinary arts or hospitality. The program also gives students the chance to become ACF Validated Culinary Graduates and earn National Restaurant Association Safe Serv Certification, which often becomes the first step on the career ladder for many of the graduates. In 2000, the program graduated 18 students, 14 of whom are still employed in the industry or are attending a postsecondary institution.

Niagara University's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management

The College of Hospitality and Tourism Management of Niagara University, located about 30 minutes north of Buffalo and overlooking Canada, is steeped in history. The fourth program in the country to achieve college status and only the seventh to become accredited at the four-year level, the College of Hospitality was also the first in the world to offer a bachelor's degree in tourism more than three decades ago. Today, the college is a national leader in study abroad programs and boasts a 100 percent placement rate, with 90 percent of its graduates working in their major field.

The roughly 200 students who attend the college can select a major in Hotel and Restaurant Management with concentrations in food service management or hotel and restaurant planning and control, or Tourism and Recreation Management with a focus on tourism marketing or recreation and sports management. Because the average class size is only 17 students, often fewer, the faculty at the college can offer a student a targeted and individualized program. "We provide opportunities that meet or exceed those offered at larger schools," says Gary Praetzel, dean of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, "but ours is a more personal environment."

Through the doors of its recently renovated, fourth-floor facility, visitors now find a five-star-hotel-atrium look as well as conference and board rooms, an amphitheater, a teaching kitchen and computer labs--all designed to give students both front- and back-of-the-house work experiences. The renovation was funded in part by a $1.5 million grant from the Statler Foundation. A second $1.5 million grant, from the John R. Oishei Foundation, is currently being used to develop innovative education opportunities, including an entrepreneurship program, which will debut in September 2002.

The college also regularly hosts tourism conferences, receptions with major recruiters and alumni, and guest speakers, including national and international industry leaders, and continues to expand its acclaimed study abroad program. Begun in 1988 to offer students a customized semester in Engelberg, Switzerland at the same cost as attending Niagara University, the college's study abroad program has grown to include Strasburg, France, where students work in a quaint chateau with Europe's largest caterer. In addition, the college was recently invited to Como, Italy to help design a hospitality and tourism program for its local university. College of Hospitality students return to the United States with practical industry knowledge and experience from a European perspective, making them highly desirable to recruiters around the world. "In fact, last spring, Starwood Hotels, which has operations in 80 countries and 110,000 people working under its various brand names, made more job offers for its exclusive national management trainee program to our students than to those at any other college they visited," says Praetzel, "and they typically visit about 16 a year."

Despite recent events, Praetzel himself hasn't seen any negative impact on enrollment or recruitment over the past several months. "Inquiries for our program have increased by 30 percent," he says, "and applications are up compared to this time last year. We're expanding our study abroad programs, and I'm getting more and more companies to come here for recruitment. Simply put, we are continuously developing more and better opportunities for our students."

Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at University of Wisconsin-Stout

Home to one of the largest hotel, restaurant and tourism management programs in the world, boasting more than 500 students, the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout) has consistently offered a creative curriculum with hands-on learning opportunities in the hospitality, tourism, restaurant and service management fields. Since its inception in 1968, the hotel and restaurant management program has grown to include classes in tourism and lodging, and throughout the past decade, it has added courses that reflect contemporary issues and new developments in the industry, including safety security, risk management and casino management.

Several innovative projects set UW-Stout apart, including its comprehensive lab management program. Students are required to work in and manage two campus dining facilities: the Corner III cafeteria and the upscale Rendezvous restaurant. Although students rotate between a variety of food service job stations, such as server, dishwasher and chef, the emphasis is on management--from marketing and menu planning to costing and scheduling. "Each student is graded on his or her management skills," says Darrell VanLoenen, program director of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program. "This real-world environment gives them the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to the test, to learn from their mistakes and celebrate their accomplishments."

UW-Stout was also one of the pioneers in online distance education, with two of its instructors leading the development of Asynchronous Learning Network (ALN) courses in 1995. Four years later, the hospitality and tourism department redesigned its graduate program for distance learning. And starting this fall, every new freshman will be given a laptop computer from which they can access class schedules, faculty Web pages, billing information, e-mails and syllabus materials. "We're one of just a few schools in the country to provide laptops to freshmen," says VanLoenen. "It's a huge undertaking, but our goal is eventually to have a completely wireless campus."

The program's annual job fair, which highlights 100 major companies, and its Co-op Placement Office, whose staff actively recruits such industry leaders as the Marriott Corporation, Hormel, Walt Disney World, Red Roof Inns and Wyndham Hotels to interview its students for post-graduate employment, have helped to maintain the program's 97 to 100 percent employment rate. "It's not unusual for our best students to receive four or five entry-level offers upon graduation," says VanLoenen. "At UW-Stout, we've built a solid reputation for preparing young adults for management positions in the industry."

Hospitality, travel and tourism will again become the thriving industries they were prior to September 11, and career and technical education programs are ensuring that well-trained workers will be ready to serve.

Lori L. Crockett is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va. She has more than 15 years of experience working with nonprofits, government agencies, performing arts venues and private industry.
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Title Annotation:United States hospitality and foodservice industry
Author:Crockett, Lori L.
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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