At the height of the pandemic, hospitality management instructors for Dallas College fielded questions from doubtful students who seemingly saw their exciting career path disappear. “We were coming into one of the best years ever in 2019-2020, and overnight that changed,” said Sheila Hyde, Dallas College Culinary and Hospitality Department chair. “Students were asking what was going to happen, and we kept telling them, ‘You have two years; it will come back.’”
Now, the regional outlook is bright and the need for hospitality workers is growing. Dallas-Fort Worth leads the nation in hotel construction, with more than 170 projects, totaling 20,000-plus rooms in the works, according to a Lodging Econometrics report. Hospitality faculty are receiving daily job announcements for multiple positions in hotels, as the industry wades through a labor shortage. For 2023 graduates, jobs are plentiful, and wages are up.
Alondra Torres, who graduated in May, began applying for jobs in event planning even before she finished. “I wanted to start out working for a company to build my experience and become fully confident, and my ultimate goal is to own a venue,” she said.
Consulting with industry partners, Dallas College has modernized, streamlined and reconfigured its Hospitality program to better serve both industry and students, and aligned it with culinary programs within Dallas College’s new Culinary and Hospitality Institute.
“We have created four distinct tracks — food and beverage specialist, meeting and events professional, travel and destination management, and hotel and lodging operations. And while a student will focus on one area, they will be crossing paths with the others,” said Hyde.
The program is offered in a hybrid format — parts of the coursework are taken online to allow students flexibility, and other parts provide the face-to-face interaction needed for training in the field. One longstanding and important aspect of Dallas College’s hospitality program is paid work experience with industry partners. Under the revamped program, each student participates in two practicums and one co-op geared toward their individual interests.
During her final semester, Torres did a co-op for Texas Rangers Golf Club, where she helped plan weddings, corporate gatherings, golf tournaments and other events. Through the co-op, she worked at two different golf facilities, each with its own set of rates and amenities. Among her experiences, she helped prepare events around the Korn Ferry Tour in Arlington.
“I can see a difference between me in the beginning and now,” said Torres. The work experience helped her become more confident interacting with clients over the phone and in person. “I learned a lot about different cultures and their traditions, and the differences in how they interact.
“Through school I felt like I knew enough to be an event coordinator, and I’ve been passionate about event planning, but to be able to do it confirmed that I am happy in this field,” she said.
Following graduation, Torres interned as a catering sales coordinator for the city of Arlington. After completion, they offered her a permanent, full-time position.
Hyde is excited for the industry, the new Hospitality program at Dallas College and the next group of students who will begin this fall. “Hospitality is huge,” she said. “It is the largest employer in the world, and in the United States it’s second only to health care.”
This article was originally posted here.