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Hospitality focus attracts a crowd

Scott DoGuglielmo

The need for educated leaders in the growing hospitality industry can certainly be met, if enrollment in WVU's hospitality management courses is any indication.

There are more jobs than qualified applicants in some states, including West Virginia, and WVU's College of Business and Economics courses are on target to help fill the void, with its restaurant management and hotel management courses filled to capacity – for the fourth straight semester, with total enrollment of 115 students.

"The first course we offered filled up within just a couple of days," said Dr. Joyce Heames, chairperson of management and industrial relations at the college. "We then offered that course again to assess the sustainability of such enrollment. Again, enrollment in the course had to be closed due to the high level of interest. This semester we offered two different courses with the same result."

By 2014, hospitality industry employment nationally is expected to increase by 17 percent overall. The accommodations and food services sector makes up approximately 8 percent of all employment nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industry at a Glance.  

The U.S. Department of Labor web site says, "The hospitality industry as a whole lacks consistency and portability in training models and skill certifications. Many employers provide internal training programs for entry-level workers, which makes it difficult to monitor the content of training and the skills acquired."


  The hospitality and tourism board, comprising private and public sector members, is working to develop the hospitality and tourism program at WVU. Pictured are Ben Seidel, Real Hospitality Group; Rita Sailer, Director of B&E Center for Career Services; Graham Peace, Assistant Dean; and Nancy McIntyre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  

Thus the need for college-level courses to train leaders in the industry, especially in a state such as West Virginia where hospitality and tourism is the second-largest industry. Of the 593 Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited schools in the United States, only 39 have hospitality degree programs, and no other AACSB-accredited schools in West Virginia offer hospitality programs in their business schools.

"There are definitely jobs for these students, in West Virginia, across the country, and around the world," said Dr. Nancy McIntyre, associate dean at the college. "For instance, currently has 65 hospitality jobs listed in West Virginia, has 35, and www.flipdog.comhas 60."

Scott DiGuglielmo, a management senior from Uniontown, Pa., is enrolled in the hotel management course and has found the experience thus far to be "great."

"While in high school I was in the National Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (NAHT), and I had an amazing teacher who really got me interested in the industry,” he said. "While taking the hospitality classes offered at WVU, I have learned much more about the industry that I did not know before. The hotel management class is very hands-on as well as very interesting!"

Organizations such as the NAHT may help attract potential students into careers in the sector. It is an institute that helps young people toward personal and professional success in high school, in higher education, and throughout their careers, including those in the hospitality sector.

Also, many young people see the industry as especially attractive. "There is a glamorous persona about hospitality that first connects students into the courses," Heames said. "Then they get intrigued by the reported growth of the industry both in-state and out and see the potential for jobs when they graduate."

DiGuglielmo agrees. "The hospitality program interests me because it is nothing like any other industry. It is growing so fast, and a large amount of money can be made in hospitality. I enjoy working with people face-to-face, and that is what hospitality is all about. Working in the hospitality industry is like being on a stage and playing your part. No matter what kind of day you're having, you always have to be on your 'A' game to please your customers or guests."

Hospitality courses are currently being offered on an ad hoc basis, McIntyre said. As the program takes shape, more courses will be added. "Hospitality will officially become an area of emphasis in management beginning in the fall of 2011. Assuming the demand is as high as we anticipate, it is our goal to make this a major in the next two to four years," she said.

So far the college is on target, especially with content, said DiGuglielmo, who hopes eventually to work in Las Vegas. "The restaurant management and hotel management classes are very hands-on and the professors are amazing," he said. "All of them have lots of experience in the field and are very knowledgeable individuals."

From what he has learned and experienced, a job in the industry is for him. "Right now I work in a five diamond restaurant, and I'm climbing my way up the ladder quickly," he said. "I really enjoy the business and hope one day to potentially be a restaurant manager or food and beverage director for a hotel or resort. I plan on attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas after WVU to get a master's in hospitality. I figure if I want to learn more about the industry, Las Vegas is the best place to do so."