I have a docking station on my desk and every day, according to my mood, I change my playlists. Today, as I was listening to Brook Benton sing “It’s Just a Matter of Time”, I thought, you know, it really is just a matter of time until some of us older, experienced travel agents will literally be moving on to retirement.
For the past two days, I’ve spent the majority of my time speaking to high school students enrolled in the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Antioch High School here in the Nashville area. At this particular high school there are five academies – Hospitality and Tourism, Business and Finance, Teaching and Services, Technology and Communications and Fine Arts. Within each academy are more pathways of study. I am the chair of the advisory board for the Hospitality and Tourism Academy, and while conducting needs assessments with the faculty at our planning meeting last month, one thing that kept popping up was certification programs for the students that could be used in a résumé or attached to a transcript for college entrance.
I immediately thought of the academies and universities that the cruise lines offer, as well as some of the training and certification programs offered by some hotel chains. Most of the students in this particular academy would be pressed if they were required to pay for taking these courses, so I started sending emails to executives at the cruises lines asking for a “back-door entrance” without their having to go through our agency to register.
Within the first week, I had responses from Royal Caribbean, NCL, Princess, Cunard, Holland America, Celebrity and Carnival. Vicki Freed was the first to respond, and Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line that is allowing these students to become certified through them. All of the others are creating ways that the students can take the courses in their academies and universities and become certified with them as well. NCLU will be the second university we offer.
I had originally been invited to speak to the students about how using social media today could potentially affect them while pursuing a career. For the first 45 minutes of each class that was exactly what my presentation entailed. But, when I used the last 30 minutes to introduce the University of WOW, they were blown away. The cruise industry and working in and for a travel agency had never entered their minds. The hospitality industry, to them, was a career in food and beverage or hotel management. Three of the teachers on the faculty are now incorporating the University of WOW into their curricula, and all of their students will be required to take them as part of their coursework. These universities meet the standards that are required on both the state and federal level for the curricula offered.
So, why does this matter? We, as travel agency owners and managers, need to be constantly on the lookout for younger people to enter our profession. They bring a different approach to selling travel and will bring an entirely new generation of clients to our agencies. They have fresh ideas and are digital natives who can communicate with young clients in the manner to which they are accustomed – texting, social media and things of the like.
If there is a high school, college or university in your area that has a hospitality curriculum, volunteer as a speaker or to help them in any way possible. It will definitely be worth the time you spend and will allow you to target talent that could possibly become an intern, part-time or full-time employee in your office.
It IS just a matter of time before our graying workforce will be retiring. Isn’t it time you invested in educating the younger generation on becoming a part of the hospitality industry?