Hoteliers work around students’ schedules to keep them on board for year-round and seasonal positions, whether they’re studying hospitality or pursuing other career paths, and also offer skills that translate well into other industries.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Not all college students working seasonal or year-round at hotels are preparing for a career in hospitality.
So, to retain them, the hoteliers who employ them have found it’s best to provide transparency and flexibility, while training them in specialized skillsets that could also be applied to future jobs outside of the hotel industry.
The St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder, Colorado, employs several college students, due in part to the hotel’s close proximity to a few campuses, such as the CU Bolder East Campus.
Herman Ariza, HR director at the St. Julien, said the hotel hires students who are passionate about delivering service.
“What that means is they can be in any program; it doesn’t have to be a hospitality management program; it’s just anyone who at their core understands that and is interested in contributing to our overall strategy,” he said.
The St. Julien’s commitment to delivering a high level of service plays a role in how the hotel retains college employees, Ariza said. The hotel teaches skillsets, such as professional presentation and communication, he said, that translate into other industries.
“We’re very overt about offering examples of hospitality and offering an environment that keeps the art form of hospitality alive through job training and the way we communicate,” he said. “We really focus on building professionals, and we celebrate (building) their career path, even if it’s outside hospitality. And we think that really adds to their commitment while they’re here, and it also helps retain them for as long as we can.”
New Castle Hotels & Resorts hires a mix of hospitality and non-hospitality students at its hotels. One way New Castle keeps hospitality-focused students on board is by providing internships and allowing them to grow their career through the company.
“I like to have a mentor program in our company,” said Gerry Chase, president and COO of New Castle. “We’ve been around for 37 years … and most of our GMs, for example, at least 50% of them have grown up through the ranks. (They) either went to college or had a college degree, and we trained them and offered them additional training programs within the organization.”
Chase added that advancing from within is motivational for the employee, and provides for the future growth of New Castle. Those employees are “effective in hitting the ground running if (they’ve) been home-grown and offered (opportunities),” he said.
It’s a similar story for students who are employed at the Hilton Garden Inn Lafayette/Cajundome in Louisiana, which is located on land owned by the University of Louisiana Lafayette.
The hotel hires quite a few students, many of them hospitality students who work in a variety of positions at the hotel, including internship positions, said Dana Moreau, the hotel’s GM.
Since most college students are focused on completing projects and attending classes to graduate, sources said it’s important to provide flexibility in the workplace.
Moreau said the Hilton Garden Inn works hard to accommodate students’ requests for days off. For example, one associate at the hotel works as the equipment manager for the college football team, and the hotel allows him to work fewer hours during the football season because of this obligation, she said.
Ariza said at the St. Julien, student employees who call off work are responsible for getting that shift covered.
“You could say its part empowerment and part accountability,” Ariza said. “We empower them to seek out coverage from peers and … that really seems to work for those kind of unexpected absences.”
He added that the St. Julien understands some students want to work intermittently at the hotel throughout the year until they’re ready to commit for a longer period of time, such as summer break, which is why the hotel provides an on-call status for associates.
“Our requirement is you have to work once every 90 days in order to maintain an active on-call status with us, and so that’s definitely a way we keep our talent close by,” he said.