By Marilou Shea
Hospitality is a vast industry comprised of a lot of different things — food and beverage, lodging, conventions, travel, attractions and leisure. The industry is typically divided into two measureable sectors: arts, entertainment and recreation; and accommodations and food services. I’m going to focus on the latter because that’s where the job growth and opportunities are, according to our local labor expert Asja Suljic.
Like a lot of opportunities, the recent launch of Columbia Basin College’s hospitality program was predicated on solving an industry problem. Industry leaders shared with us their acute need for qualified candidates with entry-level, documentable skills. Two prime examples: a manager hiring line cooks. Of the 25 who showed up, six had negligible cooking or culinary skills. One lodging owner mentioned that he had 100 applicants for an entry-level position and eight were minimally qualified. These scenarios are indicative of what’s happening at the regional and national levels, too.
CBC’s Career and Technical Education program adopted the American Hotel Education Lodging Institute, or AHELI, curriculum and partners with the Washington Hospitality Association. AHELI is a well-regarded credentialing body that offers hospitality certifications in the U.S. and worldwide.
Currently in the leisure and hospitality space, the accommodations and food services sub-sector accounts for 84 percent of the job market with the remaining 15.8 percent in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. That translates to 11,700 jobs versus 11,396 jobs, respectively.
The good news is that 3.47 percent is the expected accommodations and food services sector growth (versus 2.25 percent in arts, entertainment and recreation) through 2020 and that means — you got it — more jobs and more opportunities for those interested in hospitality, and especially in lodging, food and beverage sub-sectors like restaurants, wineries and culinary endeavors. Evidence of that growth is seen all around our community: construction of 11 new hotels in the Tri-Cities in the past three years, expanded agri-tourism events, thanks to collaborative efforts by Visit Tri-Cities and its members; the spike in wineries — currently 200 within the Tri-Cities; our new entry-level certificate program; and Washington State University’s School of Hospitality Business Management program.
Not only does the hospitality employment forecast look good but so does the pay.
In 2017, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce launched The Good Jobs Project. Researchers defined a “good job” as one paying $35,000 a year ($17 per hour for full-time job) for those under 45, and $45,000 a year ($22 per hour for full-tine job) for workers aged 45 and older.
Since 1991, leisure and hospitality and personal services industries ranked No. 1 for the most growth in “good jobs” nationally.
There are different ways to slice and dice the data with the project’s nifty multi-media tools and the website is full of other relevant data that underscores a few key takeaways for Washington state:
Maybe you’re geared toward maintenance because you’re good with your hands and like to fix stuff, excel at customer service, or want to beef up your culinary chops and become a kitchen cook, CBC has a two-credit certificate for that.
And like pancakes, they’re stackable. You can take one course, you can take three, you can take more consecutively. The great news? These classes require only 11 weeks and are reasonably priced.
Options include front desk representative, maintenance, kitchen cook, restaurant server, breakfast attendant, guest room attendant and guest service gold (customer service). Paid internships at area properties and restaurants are in the works for qualified students. Some may include hotel job rotations where you do a stint at the front desk, move on to housekeeping, then banquet services. This scenario delivers students a very hands-on, 360-degree experience of all areas of a hotel, which can help you define and pursue your passion.
WorkSource and our very own worker retraining team have proven to be valuable partners from a financial and networking perspective. They have a streamlined vetting process to determine whether students qualify for tuition assistance and offer myriad ways to connect employees to employers.
These job resources, plus CBC’s hospitality certificate program, combine to create a marketable future employee — plus a bigger paycheck. What’s not to love?
Food Love columnist Marilou Shea is adjunct faculty for Columbia Basin College’s hospitality program and Food Truck Academy, as well as the creator of Food Truck Fridays.
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