Northern Arizona University program preparing students for future in hospitality industry
PHOENIX — The pandemic may have thrown the hospitality industry a curveball, but it’s coming back in a big way.
Northern Arizona University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management is working to prepare students for a future in the industry as new positions continue to open up.
The program gets students ready for a variety of jobs within the hospitality industry, from nutrition and catering to marketing and software development for restaurants.
“The objective of the program is to teach leadership skills, management skills… skills that will prepare the student for a life-long learning experience,” Dr. Robert Cannon, an assistant professor with the program, said.
He added struggles in the industry over the past few years have actually opened up some new doors.
“Turbulent times can create opportunity that may not have been there before,” he said. “I tell our students to be very flexible, have a sense of urgency and be a change agent when change needs to occur.”
That change is happening quickly in Arizona. The state’s population continuing to grow year over year is one obvious reason, but Cannon said other factors are contributing to the state’s expanding hospitality sector.
“We’re in between two very populous states, California and Texas, so we have a lot of cross travel,” he said. “Plus, consumers want to get out and travel this summer and spring.”
Cannon acknowledges the hospitality industry isn’t a life-long career for many of its workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found turnover in the hospitality industry sits at around 70% to 80% annually, which is yet another reason new workers are so in demand.
“We’re trying through our educational programs, our governmental programs and our industry trade associations… to tell workers getting into the industry that it’s not just a pass-through career,” Cannon said. “Our students today know this can be a life-long career.”
NAU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management operates on the university’s Flagstaff campus, as well as through partnerships with Scottsdale and Pima community colleges.