WLAC Proves It: Education Is a Gateway to Success

Kay Boles with a few of her students

These are exciting times at West Los Angeles College! We have a new president, Dr. James M. Limbaugh. At more than 11,000 students, enrollment is the largest among the Los Angeles Community College District’s 9 schools. New buildings are going up, and the Hospitality/Tourism department, now in the Business Division under Chair Gerald Ludwig, is included in the building and program expansion projects.

Education is essential. And with the added dimensions of networking, training, and leadership, our students are preparing for remarkable success! With this backdrop, here are some of the efforts we are making to prepare our students for rewarding careers in the hospitality industry.

 

Online and Hybrid Instruction Prepares People for Career Entry

West offers A.A. Degrees in Hospitality and Travel. In addition to the degrees, several certificate programs are available. These include Hotel Front Desk and Back Office Operations, Hotel Sales and Marketing, Event and Convention Planning, and Travel.

Courses cover marketing, sales, operations, guest relations, hospitality law and accounting, food service management, meeting, conference and event planning, technology, travel and tourism; business management, and agency management.

Classes at WLAC are very affordable. Instruction takes place mostly in online and hybrid (online and classroom) formats. It is convenient for students to earn a degree or certificate while working full-time. Some of my students are going to complete their bachelors at Cal Poly Pomona which offers three Hospitality Management Degree programs. One has set her sights on Cornell University. Others are already working at five-star hotels and in the corporate sector.

 

Networking Is Part Of the Program

Hospitality and Travel students are encouraged to volunteer, serve on committees, and join professional organizations such as MPI.

One of our Hospitality students is active in WLAC’s Student Senate Organization. Through this connection, she has gained valuable experience in campus-wide student organization management, diplomacy, networking with various faculty and staff, and successful meeting planning.

Another student spent his spring break traveling to four-year universities, researching the best baccalaureates in Hospitality Management. He then prepared a poster for the WLAC Poster Showcase competition depicting how to determine which four-year colleges were best for transfer and degree completion.

WLAC’s program also provides networking opportunities. Academic assignments require students to schedule appointments with industry professionals. They travel to the site and interview the manager, thereby learning from the manager’s experience.

We also encourage our students to join professional organizations. This shows their seriousness and dedication to the industry. We want them to volunteer to serve on a committee, and then become a committee chair, and then move into other aspects of leadership. One student joined MPISCC, attended the education luncheon meeting, made valuable connections with meeting professionals, and was invited to join a committee.

 

Training Days

Training is an important complement to education. In support of regular academic classes, students benefit from various excursions, site tours, and training days throughout the term. Professors collectively plan on-campus all-class training days, complete with potlucks, coffee, and counselors.

In addition to on-campus activities, our students are fortunate to have the support of the local hotel community. Recently The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel LA LIVE, Holiday Inn Los Angeles International Airport and the Marina Del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored all-day Career Training Days.

The Beverly Hills Hotel staff, after a tour of its rooms, bungalows, and public areas, gave a lesson in sales and marketing strategies. They provided help with resume writing and gave an interactive lesson on interviewing skills.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel LA LIVE staff demonstrated first-hand examples of their impeccable guest service. The students learned what they mean by their employee management philosophy: Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. The group especially enjoyed WP24, Wolfgang Puck’s 24th-floor restaurant.

The Holiday Inn Los Angeles International Airport sponsored an all-day Career Training Workshop. MPISCC member David Romero, Sr. Sales Manager, gave a property tour and a special presentation on the history of the Holiday Inn hotel company and Kimmons Wilson, the company’s founder. Students were given the professional experience of formally introducing the following speakers and presenting speaker gifts:

Larry Stafford, MPISCC member and Director of New Business Development with the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, shared what a career at a CVB entails.  His CVB also provided swag bags and prizes.

The Appointment Group (TAG), an international hospitality/travel management company headquartered in London and Los Angeles, was there seeking to hire WLAC students into their company. They specialize in entertainment event management and are recruiting hospitality/travel management students. They asked that the students bring their resumes and schedule interviews.

Dr. Marc Mancini, author of several textbooks used by colleges and universities worldwide, consultant with Marriott Corporation, and creator of the WLAC travel/hospitality program, was a favorite. In addition to his lecture, there was a book signing session, where students brought any of their textbooks that Dr. Mancini had written. The students loved it!

 

Leadership Training Is Built In

Education, networking, and training are essential in preparing students to be productive in the marketplace. With leadership skills, students take their careers to the highest level. Here at WLAC, we address this issue by creating opportunities to gain direct experience. Students participate in decision-making, strategic thinking, and other leadership skills that foster an individual’s social, personal and professional growth and development.

This semester our students created a student hospitality club. They discussed their purpose, goals, and objectives and wrote their mission statement, vision, and core values. They named their founding president, vice presidents, directors, and chairs. They established their bylaws and constitution in accordance with the school’s Association of Student Organizations (ASO). On February 28, 2017, the ASO officially recognized and installed the West LA College Hospitality Student Association (aka Hospitality Club). The club is open to students in all majors who are interested in Hospitality.

During “Club RUSH,” the new Hospitality Club recruited 47 students from all majors.Now the Club is seeking opportunities for formal leadership training, contributing to campus and community outreach, and collaborating with the Film Production Department to produce a documentary on student success stories.

 

To Excel and Enjoy

Coupled with academic credentials, networking, training, and leadership opportunities provide benefits for students, the school, the community, the Hospitality industry, and the world. At WLACt, we are passionate about making this happen, and guiding our students to find careers at which they not only excel, but enjoy!

As the renowned, Dr. Mancini concluded in his keynote address to the students at their Career Day Workshop, “When you find the job you love, you will never work another day in your life.”

Kay Boles, MS, CMP, CMM, CHE is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Hospitality/Tourism program at West Los Angeles C0llege in Culver City, CA. She can be reached at bolesnk@wlac.edu.