Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Investing in our Future Workforce

It's time to report on the progress towards establishing a four-year Hospitality Management degree at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend. The program’s leader, Todd Montgomery, recently gave a presentation to program stakeholders, of which ORLA’s a major stakeholder in the reestablishment of this program having led the fundraising to enable the university to hire Todd.

Oregon lost its hospitality management program in the early 90s when Oregon State University closed its program due to low participation and a budget-cutting program dictated by recessionary times. The result was a steady exodus of college students to programs elsewhere in the country - especially to WSU and Nevada Las Vegas’ programs here in the West. Much too often these students found jobs in other states and didn’t return home. This brain drain certainly was a detriment to our industry and was frequently bemoaned by industry members as I interacted with them.

Dr. Becky Johnson who heads up the OSU-Cascades campus came to visit me several years ago with a request for assistance in getting the Hospitality Management degree reinstituted. Funds were needed to pay for the hiring of a second, and lead, professor to enable the university to offer all the classes required for the major. Funding for a three-year period at $100,000 annually was necessary to allow the program to be designed, approved and implemented. The business plan calls for the tuition paid by the students enrolled in the major to eventually fund the professor’s salary after the three-year period is up.

I agreed to call industry leaders around the state with the assistance of Julie Hotchkiss, OSU-Cascades Director of Development, to see if there was interest to fund this effort. The test was to call on ten potential funders and ascertain their interest and support; the request was for $5,000 per year for three years. We made our calls, and to our delight received a positive answer from eight of the first ten calls. Julie and I proceeded to raise over $300,000 in the next year with the first pledges paid in early 2013.

I’m happy to report that this stage is nearing completion and classes should begin in the fall of 2014. The degree will be housed in OSU’s School of Business and the students completing the course will receive a Hospitality Management degree with a minor in Business.

We’re very excited about the reestablishment of this degree in Oregon. Bend is a wonderful location as it provides a vibrant hospitality industry that will allow for the inclusion of internship requirements for the degree. The resorts, attractions, restaurants, lodging facilities, breweries and outdoor offerings will provide a rich and varied internship experience for the students pursuing this degree. The result will be students entering the workforce with a degree that directly applies to the hospitality industry from an Oregon-based university, thus providing the industry with an annual supply of well-trained management applicants to hire.

ORLA is proud to have played a role in the development of what we think will be a major asset for the industry for years to come. The real thanks goes to the following industry partners who stepped up to fund the development of this program when asked: ORLA Education Foundation, Elmer’s, Shari’s, Bon Appetit Management Co., Bargreen Ellingson, Liberty Mutual Insurance, The Dussin Group (Old Spaghetti Factory), Food Services of America, Jubitz Foundation, Bennington Properties, Black Butte Ranch, Tom & Stacy Luerson, Navis Inc., the Oxford Hotel Group and Baney Family, and Sunriver Resort

Thank these good folks when you see them as they’ve done a really wonderful thing for our industry. | Steve McCoid, President & CEO, ORLA