HOSPITALITY EDUCATION AND TRAINING – A BOOMING BUSINESS … A BOOMING SECTOR; Colleges and Universities, Vocational and Technical Schools, Trade Associations, and Civic Groups Are Meeting the Need to Educate and Train Skilled Hospitality Workers and Managers

Willwork master foreman Nate Gunn teaching a class at Willwork University

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services is a national leader in exhibition services and event project management.

In 2017 we are celebrating 30 years in business.

A primary reason for our success is that we invest considerably in the training and development of our employees, and of those skilled laborers who work with us on a project basis.

An example of our commitment to training is Willwork University, a pioneering program we developed and launched in 1998.

Willwork University is a two-day workshop held once a year at either our corporate headquarters outside of Boston, or at our Las Vegas or Orlando office.   Willwork University is a comprehensive combination of show-floor and classroom instruction in best practices and procedures of exhibit and event installation & dismantle.

Upon successful completion of Willwork University, attendees receive a Willwork University diploma.

With the meetings and events industry healthy and growing strong, there is an increasing need for skilled and talented exhibit I&D laborers.  Willwork and Willwork University trains and provides those workers.

Four-year colleges and universities, and community colleges, the world over are responding to the incessant growth in the meetings and events sector,  They are responding by expanding hospitality and event management degree programs or launching new programs.

Higher education is creating and developing new and better ways to educate and train future hospitality professionals, and to more effectively provide networking and job opportunities for students and graduates.

In higher education, while hospitality and event management schools and courses of study have long been prominent and popular, never … in terms of broadly domestically or internationally … have they been close in prominence and popularity to other schools and colleges and degree programs.

That may be changing.

Higher education is surely investing heavily in building and expanding these programs, and in marketing and advertising them.

Leading companies in the areas of conventions, tourism, food service, casinos, resorts, healthcare, corporate travel … and others … send recruiters to scout and interview students that are finishing their degrees in hospitality and event management.

Other institutions and organizations are meeting the demand to teach and train hospitality professionals.

Technical and vocational schools play a big role, and that role is growing, in preparing students for jobs in hospitality, and providing students with a solid foundation on which to launch and attain success in the field.

Such is the opportunity and rewards in delivering excellent hospitality services, and knowing how to plan events, that trade and community organizations offer their own training seminars and workshops.

In this post, Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services takes a look at and discusses a selection of hospitality education and training programs in the U.S.  We share information on the history of hospitality education and training.

We also give attention to and make some brief comments on the future of hospitality education and training and where it may be headed.

A Pioneer and the Standard

The origins of college hospitality programs go back more than 90 years, to 1922, and Howard B. Meek, a professor with the Department of Home Economics in the New York State College of Agriculture, a statutory college within Cornell University.

It was that year that Professor Meek launched, within the Department of Home Economics, the world’s first undergraduate hospitality management degree program.

Howard B. Meek (image credit: Hospitality Inside)

Professor Meek drew his inspiration to start the program from studying the rapid post World War I growth of the hotel industry, and his understanding of the consequent and growing need for well-trained hotel professionals.

Professor Meek’s first class had 21 students.

Soon, Professor Meek enlisted the support of prominent New York City hoteliers who successfully petitioned the New York state legislature to appropriate $11,000 annually for the running of the “Hotel Department.”.

In 1927, Ellsworth M. Statler, one of the most successful hotel entrepreneurs of his time, was invited by Hotel Department students to attend their Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), a two-day conference held annually.  Mr. Statler – or E.M. as he preferred to be called – understood that his attendance was organized by the students and Professor Meek with the intent of pitching him on donating money to the program.

A skeptical E.M. Statler attended HEC.  He wasn’t skeptical for long.  In fact, when asked to deliver a few words from the podium at the event, Mr. Statler said, “I’m converted. Meek can have any damn thing he wants.”

Mr. Statler and his family delivered.  Even though he died only 11 months after his attendance at HEC, Mr. Statler provided generously in his will for the Hotel Department.  Through the years, the Statler family and Statler Foundation have given millions of dollars to finance the “teaching, research, scholarships, and facilities” at the institution that Professor Meek founded and its progeny.

In 1949, E.M. Statler’s widow, Alice Statler, laid the cornerstone of Statler Hall, which became the home of the Hotel Department.

A year later, Statler Hall, and adjacent, Statler Inn, a 36-room teaching hotel with high-end amenities, opened.

In 1950, the Hotel Department became the School of Hotel Administration (SHA), its own college within Cornell University.

For almost 70 years, SHA remained a separate college; that was until 2016 when SHA, along with two other Cornell University colleges – the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and Johnson Graduate School of Management – were folded into the newly created Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business Administration.

SHA, commonly called “The Hotel School,” is widely and generally known as the world’s best and most prestigious hospitality and hotel management program.  In fact, in 2015, CEO World Magazine named SHA as the No. 1 hospitality and hotel management school in the world.

Cornell University’s Hotel School is a powerful global brand name in hospitality education.  Its alumni steer and manage hospitality business and organizations which operate in scope from local to international.

SHA offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and executive education certification.

What are particulars and specifics of the Hotel School curriculum?  For example, for students studying for their bachelor degrees at the Hotel School, what are classes they take, and areas of study that are available?

First-year undergraduate students all have the same core required courses.

Among those required courses are Organizational Behavior and Leadership Skills, Financial Accounting, Introduction to Hotel Operations, Introduction to Food Service Operations, and Business Computing.

To specialize in different areas of hospitality, SHA offers three bachelor degree concentrations and a bachelor degree minor.

SHA concentrations are Services Marketing & Operations Management (SMOM), Finance, Accounting & Real Estate Concentration (FARE), and Hospitality Leadership Concentration (HOLD).

The minor SHA offers is the Undergraduate Minor in Real Estate.

Required for completion of a bachelor’s degree is 800 hours of work in the hospitality field.

To enhance training and assist students forge professional relationships, the Hotel School operates the following five institutes where students can directly apply their learning and connect and work with SHA corporate partners:  Center for Hospitality Research, Center for Real Estate and Finance, Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship,  Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations, and Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures.

Statler Hotel at Cornell University (image credit:

Helping to make The Hotel School No. 1 is its on-campus facilities, among them the Statler Hotel — a 153-room full-service award-winning luxury hotel and teaching hotel all in one — opened in 1989, and the successor to Statler Inn.

A Hospitality Management Program Blooms in the Desert

Finishing second in the 2015 CEO World survey is a school based in the best place for a higher education hospitality degree program: Las Vegas.

All facets and aspects of hospitality are in Las Vegas in abundance:  hotels, meetings, restaurants, conferences, gaming, entertainment … and more.

Las Vegas is the busiest convention and tradeshow city in the U.S. in terms of hosting the most major events and most total square footage these events occupy.

The William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) began 50 years ago as a hotel management program within Nevada Southern University.  Harrah College’s enrollment is 2,500.

Nevada Southern University became UNLV in 1969, and that same year the hotel management program was named the College of Hotel Administration.

In 1989, the college received a gift of $5 million from Vernah Harrah in the name of her late husband, the hotel and casino magnate William F. Harrah.  In recognition of the gift and to honor Mr. Harrah, the College of Hotel Administration was renamed for him.

Harrah Hotel College offers bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees.

Within the Harrah Hotel College are the College of Hotel Administration, Department of Food and Beverage Management, Department of Hotel Management, Department of Recreation and Sport Management, and Department of Tourism and Administration.

Among the many bachelor of science degree programs available to Harrah Hotel College undergrads is a generalist degree in hospitality: the Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management.   Students in this program can earn the Hospitality Management degree with a concentration in one of four areas:  Gaming Management, Meetings and Events, PGA Golf Management, and Restaurant Management.

Completion of a Harrah Hotel College bachelor’s degree requires 1000 hours of employment in the hospitality industry.

Now, of course, and it would only make sense, that Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services particularly appreciates a college that offers a Meetings and Events concentration.

As well, Willwork can only agree with the “Learning Objectives” of the Meetings and Events concentration as outlined by Harrah Hotel College:

  1. Develop an understanding of the significance of meetings and events within the hospitality industry.
  2. Understand the client or organization’s goals and objectives for the meeting and event.
  3. Produce a memorable event experience within budgetary constraints.
  4. Communicate effectively with internal and external constituents to develop proactive relationships when facilitating a successful meeting or event.

Here are links to the syllabi of three of the five courses that a student must take to earn, along with a bachelor of science degree in Hospitality Management, a concentration in Meetings and Events;  Introduction to the Convention Industry, Catering Operations, and Meeting Planning.

As described at the Harrah Hotel College website, “Each year the college organizes 600 internships, welcomes more than 100 hospitality brands for recruitment events, and pairs an average of 175 industry mentors with students.  These crucial relationships help build careers.”

The School

An institution of higher learning which consistently ranks near the top of the world’s best hospitality management programs is the School of Hospitality Business, an independent institution within the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.

Indeed, with a beginning traced to 1927, The School — as it is known to its alums, faculty, administrators, and students — vies with and contests the claim of The Hotel School at Cornell University as being the world’s first hospitality school.

The School offers undergraduate, graduate, and executive education programs.

Undergraduate students study for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hospitality Business.

Two paid internships are required to complete the bachelor’s degree.

Like the Hotel School, The School offers a real estate minor: the Minor in Hospitality Business Real Estate Investment Management.

 Two paid internships are required to complete the bachelor’s degree.

Graduate degree programs that The School of Hospitality Business offers are the Michael L. Minor Master of Science in Foodservice Business Management, the Master of Science in Hospitality Business Management,,  and the Graduate Specialization in Hospitality Business.

Those successfully completing the Graduation Specialization in Hospitality Business program are awarded a PhD in the discipline.

An august and acclaimed institution within The School is the Hospitality Association (HA), the oldest student hospitality association in the nation.

The Hospitality Association is made up of nine clubs: American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), Eta Sigma Delta, Global Hospitality Business Organization (GHBO), National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Real Estate Investment Club (REIC), Spartan Hospitality Food Society (SHFS),  and Spartan Enology Society (SES).

Here is an excerpt from a Hospitality Association backgrounder:  “Each one of these clubs’ schedules, speakers, tours, demonstrations, and other educational and social events catering to the diversified interests of the various club memberships.”

 Another Pioneer – and Excellent in the Field

Founded in 1937 at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), Hotel Management was a pioneering and groundbreaking hospitality management higher ed program.

Hotel Management birthed the institution that would grow into what is today the Penn State School of Hospitality Management (HM).

HM, internationally renowned, is an academic unit within the Penn State College of Health and Human Development.

More than 700 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in the school.

Students in the HM undergraduate program study toward a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management.  Undergrad students can also earn a Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The graduate track at HM is primarily designed for students to earn a Master of Science in Hospitality Management and go on to study for a PhD (HM offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Hospitality Management) or a career in industry research.

HM’s Conti Professorship Program names Conti Professors who are “recognized leaders within the hospitality industry” and “visit the school on a regular basis to interact with students and faculty, present guest lectures in hospitality and foodservice management, and speak at graduate and undergraduate colloquia.”

Cafe Laura, an on-campus restaurant, provides HM students the opportunity to work and learn and perform all aspects of restaurant management, service, and operations.

For most of the year, Cafe Laura is open during weekdays for lunch and dinner.  There are some weeks when the restaurant is closed; during the summer the restaurant is closed on Friday.

Cafe Laura periodically has a themed dinner menu: e.g. “A Taste of the Caribbean,” “An Evening at a French Bistro,” “California Wine Country,” “A Tribute to Tuscany,” and “The Best of New Orleans.”

Community Colleges and Vocational and Technical Schools – Associate Degrees and Certification

Community colleges and vocational and technical schools continue to build on and expand in offering associate degrees and certification programs which, at low or no financial cost to students, provide the skills and training to fill jobs across all sectors of the economy.

The hospitality industry is deep and expansive in opportunity for community college grads and those holding certifications from the colleges.

A community college which offers a hospitality program is Bristol Community College (BCC).  Based in Fall River, MA, about 30 miles from the Willwork corporate headquarters, BCC also operates three satellite campuses in the area.

The CATCH Institute (Culinary Arts, Tourism, Casino, and Hospitality Management) at BCC offers an Associate in Applied Science in Hospitality Management with a concentration in either Casino Management, Tourism Management, Hotel Management, or Food Service.

The Casino concentration was a response to the recent construction of new casinos, and expansion of those existing, in Southern New England.

BCC also offers a Certificate of Achievement in GeoTourism Destination Management.

Excellent and Smart Cooperation of a Chamber of Commerce and Vocational Training

Throughout the United States, chambers of commerce and trade groups and community organizations are developing and hosting and running hospitality education and training events.

One of those events, a winning event, was produced this past winter through the teamwork of a chamber of commerce and a high school vocational program, both based in the Cleveland area.

On February 28, the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Task Force (Lakewood, OH), presented the Hospitality Industry Labor Summit, an event that brought together members of the Lakewood restaurant and foodservice community for a roundtable discussion focused on how to scout, recruit, and retain talented and conscientious help.

Sponsored by the Cuyahoga Community College Hospitality Management Program, Towards Employment, Cornucopia, Inc., and West Shore Career-Tech Culinary Arts/ProStart, the event was also an opportunity for networking.

Organizers and sponsors of the Hospitality Industry Labor Summit did their homework and planned well in bringing in New York Times bestselling cookbook author, Douglas Trattner, a Cleveland resident, to moderate the roundtable.

As well, smart planning was holding the summit at Ranger Café @ West Shore, a restaurant which is a component of ProStart at Lakewood High School.

ProStart is a national program developed and sponsored by the National Restaurant Association in which high school students receive education and training in restaurant management, cooking and working as a chef, managing hotels, and event planning.

Students can earn money while learning and training.

Lakewood High School culinary arts students in training at Ranger Café @ West Shore (image credit: Ranger Café @ West Shore)

ProStart is especially valuable for high schools students considering a career in hospitality.

Students who successfully complete ProStart earn the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement.  Holders of this certification get a leg up in competing for National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation scholarships, and are often given credit for certain college introductory courses in culinary arts and other areas of hospitality.

For the Hospitality Industry Labor Summit, Lakewood High School ProStart students training and working at Ranger Café @ West Shore prepared and served a delicious lunch to the summit attendees.

The Future:  Continued Innovation and New and Better Ways to Educate and Train Hospitality Professionals

The hospitality industry is domestically, and internationally, doing great.  It will continue to do great.  And as business continues to boom so too will the need for well-trained and highly skilled hospitality professionals.

To meet that need, existing hospitality education and training programs will grow.  New education and training sources will emerge.

For sure, more and more four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and vocational and technical schools will add hospitality education and certification.

Depending on how legislation and public policy and regulatory matters play out, for-profit schools may play a bigger role in hospitality education than at present.

As is the case in all areas of education and training, as well as in all industry sectors, pressing is the challenge of how to best employ and apply technology to achieve better results and deliver increased value.

Online technology and communication will enable more classes and courses to be taught and taken online.  Today there are many quality hospitality colleges that provide a degree track that is 100 percent online and virtual.

Schools will add executive education certification programs.

Look for hospitality brand names to continue to endow schools, programs, institutes, buildings, and scholarships — with both endower and those in receipt of the endowment realizing tremendous value.

For sure, and for example, consider how both parties benefit in the establishment of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, or the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, the Statler Hotel (on the Cornell University campus), or the MGM Resorts International Hospitality Internship Program (HP).

Companies that hold established and powerful brands provide money and on-the-job training, and the companies from powerful advertising and marketing, and development of talent and having an inside track on recruiting that talent.

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services is always looking for ways to better and more effectively train employees and contract laborers.

In exercising and honoring a commitment to teaching and training, we help and encourage and support people in their quest to achieve their fullest potential, which results in Willwork customers receiving optimum service.

In the future in this space we will discuss and share more information and stories on hospitality education and training.







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