Real-world training at Salinas school
By MARIE VASARI
Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 07/13/2007 09:12:13 AM PDT
At Central Coast College, the aim is to get students ready to work.
Less theory, more real-world applications.
That is why the Salinas vocational school is looking to the real world to launch its next program. This fall, the 24-year-old college is adding a hospitality and tourism program, tapping into a need to help hospitality employees move up through the ranks.
The program can serve those considering hospitality careers, said Sara Benevento, community relations representative for the school, but is particularly suited for working professionals who want to transform a job into a career. Whether they work as restaurant hostesses or hotel clerks, hospitality employees at some point may want to advance to more regular hours, greater responsibility and better pay.
High industry turnover can make it a challenge for lodgings, restaurants and others in the hospitality trade to maintain standards. Ongoing training — through specific management courses, for example — helps companies promote employees to supervisory roles from within, she said.
Bert Cutino, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Sardine Factory restaurant, says there's a need for more hospitality training programs. Hiring trained staff is one of the biggest challenges restaurants and others in the hospitality industry face, said Cutino.
That was so when the Sardine Factory opened almost 40 years ago, and it holds true today.
Cutino supports multiple scholarship programs through culinary professional organizations and is a frequent guest and speaker at culinary schools. The more access there is to professional development, he said, the better for the Peninsula's main industry.
"The hospitality industry is so vital to this area," said Cutino. "We have enough demand that whatever they kick out, we can use."
Monterey Peninsula College and CSU-Monterey Bay offer hospitality programs. At MPC, students can earn a certificate or associate degree in hospitality operations or an associate degree in restaurant management. CSUMB offers hospitality concentrations in hotel/resort management and general hospitality management through its School of Business.
Central Coast College President/CEO Robert H. Schaefer said his goal is to create a program that suits the needs of the county's second largest industry.
The hospitality program differs from the vocational college's other programs, as many students will likely have work experience in their fields, hoping to advance their careers through specific coursework on management training or menu marketing. So while students can enroll for the full 34 weeks, they can also take individual courses such as managerial accounting, front office management or human resources management and supervision to advance their careers.
"The possibilities of making a career out of hospitality are huge," said Schaefer. "We're talking about hotels and lodging, fine dining, spas, wine tasting rooms, the whole gamut."
The privately owned college, which can accommodate an enrollment of 150 students, already offers courses in computer technology, medical assisting and other fields.
The program is based on National Restaurant Association Education Foundation's Managefirst Program and American Hospitality and Lodging Association curriculum. The cost is $10,500, including books and supplies.
George Kaplanis, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn in Monterey, said the addition of training programs for hospitality professionals comes as welcome news.
"I think it's wonderful that it's happening because there is a need," said Kaplanis. "Absolutely, we want trained people."
The county's tourism industry competes against San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma, said Kaplanis, and the competition extends beyond just the tourists: Local hotels face stiff competition for employees as well from those regions, and the addition of a new hotel on Cannery Row will only tighten the competition.
So anything that increases the size and depth of the work force helps Monterey County compete, he said.
He suspects the industry, as a whole, would likely welcome interns and employees from Central Coast College with open arms.
The area's high cost of living makes it challenging to attract midlevel employees from outside of the area, so Kaplanis said companies often find it preferable to promote from existing staff, using mentoring and training to prepare their employees for advancement.
"If we can find somebody who's already based here, living here and who's going to seek a career here," said Kaplanis, "all the better