By Lisa Fattori
Special to The Toronto Sun
Niagara Falls is experiencing a growth spurt in response to The Niagara Falls Casino/Gateway Project, an ambitious complex that will attract even more workers and tourists to an area already brimming with activity.
Area hotels and restaurants, including those of Niagara Hospitality Hotels (NHH), are expanding facilities to accommodate the new influx of visitors, and they have a variety of positions available for hospitality workers.
"The Casino has generated a lot of interest among hotel owners," says Cathy Lacroix, executive assistant at the NHH. "We are going to be hiring people from all levels, including parking, housekeeping and management positions."
A career in the hospitality industry offers a lot of flexibility, and for those who have business and management training, there are tremendous opportunities for promotion.
As the demand for hotel and restaurant workers increases, hospitality schools are working closely with employers to meet the needs of industry.
"If you look broadly across the tourism industry, employers tell us that they are having trouble finding cooks and chefs," says Cheryl Paradowski, president of the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation.
"Employers are also saying that they need supervisors and managers who are skilled and ready to hit the ground running."
Hospitality graduates receive business and management training, usually in the second year of their programs. Humber College's hotel and restaurant management program has incorporated courses in revenue management and entrepreneurship into its curriculum.
Instruction in these areas gives students the business acumen to start their own establishments, or to better manage their departments within a larger organization.
"In the hotel industry today, the hot topic is revenue management," says Ramesh Srinivasan, assistant director of hospitality and culinary programs at Humber College.
"This is managing at what price you sell a room on a given day. The idea is to maximize profits and to get the best bang for your buck."
The co-op portion of hospitality programs is an integral part of a student's education, providing hands-on experience that has immediate value upon graduation.
Communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills are important attributes to have in a profession that is service-oriented, and these skills are perfected in a working environment. In many cases, employers will retain the co-op students who have trained at their establishments.
"A student's personality traits, combined with the knowledge that we provide, produces a very successful candidate going out to the workforce," Srinivasan says.
"Over 97% of our graduates find employment within three months of graduating. Co-op is an integral part of the program because it is so industry focused."
Although they are equipped with management skills, hospitality graduates shouldn't expect a supervisory position right away. Most graduates work in an entry-level position before advancing to a managerial role where they can use their business skills.
"This is a work-your-way-up-from-the-bottom kind of industry, but you can advance quickly if you have a business diploma," Paradowski says. "You have to put in about three months in the front lines before moving up to a supervisory position."
Despite the challenges to the industry post Sept. 11, tourism continues to grow 3% annually, and the industry projects 30,000 new jobs to be created in Ontario each year.
The popularity of culinary or cuisine travel is creating new opportunities for the restaurant and hotel industries, as travellers flock to experience an area's regional fare.
Filling tourism and hospitality positions will become a challenge, however, as numbers in the 18 to 26-year-old workforce decline.
This demographic has made up the bulk of hospitality and tourism workers, and the projected shortage will increase demand for new entrants to this industry.
"Projections about a big dip in 18 to 26-year-old workers has operators worried about where they will get employees," Paradowski says.
"These careers offer a lot of flexibility to Boomers who retire at 55, but who don't want to quit work completely. This group brings a lot of valuable experience and management skills to the industry."
(Lisa Fattori (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Toronto-based freelance writer.)
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