Lakeland College, Blue Harbor Resort & Spa, The Osthoff Resort and Destination Kohler today announced a partnership designed to create a new talent pool for area resorts and help Lakeland hospitality management students learn while they earn money for college.
As part of the agreement, Blue Harbor, The Osthoff and Destination Kohler will make a number of entry-level positions and/or internships available to Lakeland hospitality management students.
The jobs are not guaranteed, and students will have to interview for any posted positions. Employers have the final say in hiring, and how long the students stay employed depends upon job performance and job availability by the program partners.
For the resorts, the partnership addresses challenges of attracting and retaining qualified and dependable employees, especially during holidays and the summer. Lakeland will allow students to live on campus during breaks and summers as part of the program.
"If you ask area executives across all industry sectors what their biggest challenge for the future is, they are likely to respond that the availability of a viable workforce is that challenge," said David Sanderson, vice president and general manager of Blue Harbor Resort & Spa.
"Tourism is no different. With this partnership, we have an opportunity to overcome that challenge, while providing a real-world practical laboratory for students to augment their academic requirements. The potential benefit for students to lower their need for student loans and thus reduce their debt load after graduation is important also."
Sanderson noted that Blue Harbor has hired several Lakeland graduates into management jobs during his four-year tenure, and he expects that number to grow.
"I believe this gives Lakeland College's hospitality program a real competitive edge in attracting high school graduates who are interested in a career within our industry," Sanderson said. "If students apply themselves, they will exit Lakeland with a bachelor's degree along with years of industry experience. As a hiring employer, I would view that as a distinct advantage."
Lola Roeh, general manager at The Osthoff Resort, agreed that the partnership addresses the labor challenge facing local employers.
"Through this partnership, Lakeland will have the ability to provide professional experiences for students studying hospitality management, and The Osthoff will have access to a new labor distribution channel that's very industry focused," Roeh said. "We have always had access to Lakeland's student body, but now Lakeland will be promoting The Osthoff and the other partners as an opportunity for gaining experience in the field."
Roeh said this partnership provides local employers an opportunity to train and grow prospective full-time employees.
"If we have people working here in a job or internship and they enjoy our culture and working in this environment and we respect their contribution, we've promoted these individuals to management positions," Roeh said. "For the Lakeland student, this is an opportunity to sample their choice of study as a future job. They have control over their own destiny, because if they enjoy their work this is a possible entrée to key positions being open to them after graduation."
Michael Belot, General Manager-Destination Kohler, said, "Destination Kohler is pleased to collaborate with neighboring Lakeland College to showcase our world-class American Club Hotel and other resort facilities as a classroom of sorts in both accommodations and guest services to a group of engaged, hospitality-focused students eager to explore career opportunities. We are pleased to have these students learn directly from our talented associates, who excel each day at providing five-star services for our guests."
For Lakeland students, the partnership creates a way to earn up to $8,000 a year to put toward the cost of college at a time when students and parents are increasingly concerned about the rising cost of a college education and the increasing debt load.
"Students and parents want to be sure that their investment will end in a job with good pay and benefits that would not be available without earning a college degree," said Lakeland President Dan Eck. "This partnership could significantly reduce a hard-working student's debt load, and, in some cases, even completely eliminate student loan debt—a remarkable achievement that will set those students on a road to financial well-being immediately after graduation."
Lakeland and its three hospitality partners will establish mutually beneficial work and class schedules. In some cases, Lakeland may explore holding certain classes on site at the employer's facilities.
"This partnership puts Lakeland in a position to recruit and retain top students for our program, which translates into a reliable workforce for our region," said Chuck Stockman, Lakeland professor of hospitality management and chair of the college's business division.
Stockman worked in the hotel and restaurant industry for almost two decades before joining Lakeland's faculty in 1994.
"Our students will have opportunities to graduate having already worked entry-level positions in some of the region's top resorts, giving them better chances of obtaining higher level jobs after graduation," Stockman said. "Our partners will have a chance to grow and mold these students with an eye toward full-time employment after graduation."