Hospitality & Tourism-Linking Industry to the Classroom

Article excerpt

Perhaps when you think about hospitality and tourism destinations in the United States, Hawaii, Florida and New York come to mind. I doubt that many people instantly associate South Carolina with a top tourism destination, but the number one industry in South Carolina is tourism. Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Greenville and Hilton Head make South Carolina a travel destination for visitors year-round. According to the United States Travel Association, tourism contributes over $15 billion yearly to the South Carolina economy. The question remains whether South Carolina is preparing its workforce to support such a large industry. Career and technical education (CTE) programs are the logical answer to meet the demand.

The Breakdown

Considering the large size of the hospitality and tourism industry in South Carolina, it would appear that the public schools would see the need for an educated workforce in this specific area and would respond to the demand. This has not been the case. The hospitality and tourism cluster in South Carolina schools consists of two tracks: culinary arts and hospitality management and operations. According to the South Carolina Department of Education Career and Technology Office, there are almost three times as many schools that offer culinary arts programs (approximately 68) as offer hospitality management and operations programs (approximately 20). This is quite surprising considering the amount of money associated with offering a culinary arts program. The hospitality management and operations curriculum can be implemented into the curriculum without many additional costs. Staffing, textbooks and smaller supplementary materials are basically the only costs associated with a hospitality management and operations program.

Future Focus

Career paths for students in the hospitality and tourism cluster can be very diverse. Students may choose to be hotel managers, event planners, pastry chefs, wedding directors or marketing managers for a local convention and visitors bureau. This variety of career offerings is one of the unique benefits of having hospitality- and tourism-related courses in a school. Students are also eligible to complete internships with local businesses and partners during their senior year. This is a unique way to increase school and community relations while getting students exposed to the industry at an early age.

Many people associate hospitality and tourism positions with low-wage jobs, but programs at the high school level help increase the competitiveness of higher-paying jobs as a more educated and experienced workforce develops. Students may choose to enter the workforce immediately alter high school or choose to continue their hospitality and tourism education at a postsecondary school. Nearly a dozen colleges and universities in South Carolina offer hospitality and tourism courses and/or curriculums.

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Instant Success

I began teaching the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program in 2008 at North Central High School in Kershaw, South Carolina. The closest full-service hotel to the school is nearly an hour away, and many of the students had never stayed in a three-star or higher hotel. None of the students in the initial class knew what hospitality and tourism management involved, and I often referred to the class as hotel, restaurant and tourism management so that students had some idea of what it was they were going to learn. I initially offered one introductory course in hospitality management and operations, but over a four-year span, the program expanded to four levels, with its first completer in 2012. Student requests for the courses exceeded the number of allotted student spaces for all class periods after the first year of the program. …