The University of South Florida’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has experienced significant growth after expanding its programmes from the Sarasota-Manatee campus to the Tampa and St Petersburg campuses in the fall of 2022.
The school reported that the expansion has led to an increase of 200-300% in students taking hospitality courses each semester.
Partnerships with McKibbon Hospitality, Aramark and Mainsail Lodging and Development have provided students with opportunities to shadow and intern at three-to-five-star hotels and on-campus dining locations.
The hospitality industry internship programme also provides employment to 130 graduate students.
The programme’s aim is to turn hotels, restaurants and their associated corporate offices into learning labs, offering students first-hand experience in day-to-day operations, sales and marketing, reservations, revenue management and corporate housing.
School expands programming and industry partnerships
Randy Hassen, CEO of McKibbon Hospitality, stated: “As they’re going to school and learning about hospitality, we want to provide them with the hands-on experience that it takes to be a successful hospitality leader.”
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Rachael Pisano, who enrolled in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management to begin a new career path, is currently working for McKibbon Hospitality at Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Tampa.
“This is my first time ever working in a hotel,” Pisano says, “and so far, the hands-on experience has been wonderful. I’ve learned so much and have made so many connections. It’s been amazing having the opportunity to be able to network myself.”
Hands-on experience is key to success
The internship programme has also welcomed Usman Khan from Pakistan, who already has experience in hospitality education, training and development but wanted to continue his studies in the US to acquire operations experience.
He is currently working on quality assessment at the Chick-fil-A location in the Marshall student centre. Aramark, the university’s food service partner since 2002, is providing dining services and employing 800 students across all majors.
The internship programme enables hospitality students to get more out of their academic studies through hands-on experience and on-the-job management training.
2.09 million hospitality jobs in 2023
The programme’s performance has exceeded expectations, providing students with real-life applications of their classroom learning and offering a strong talent pipeline for the hospitality industry.
Despite staffing shortages and inflation, the hospitality industry is projected to employ 2.09 million people in 2023, down from 2.35 million in 2019, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s 2023 state of the hotel industry report. Focusing on workforce development is key to repairing the industry and sustaining its growth.