Five years ago, I started developing a Hospitality & Tourism Management pathway at Oregon Charter Academy (ORCA). ORCA serves students across Oregon through a virtual public charter school model. I was seeking a competitive advantage in an underserved Career & Technical Education (CTE) category. I quickly understood two issues: the industry was demanding work-ready employees, and we had limited training programs in the Secondary Hospitality, Tourism, & Recreation (HTR) sector.
These gaps are fed by a need for more understanding of industry demand on the academic side and a lack of instructors endorsed in the HTR category. In theory, programs are created around industry demand, but the reality is that programs are often built around teacher endorsement, school resources, and connections. Requirements on CTE educators and the expectations beyond teaching create a silo that limits workforce development in HTR. The limits are self-imposed, but with the breaking down of barriers, we are finding momentum in awareness and opportunity for a prepared workforce.
For the past five years, I've positioned myself to intricately understand the HTR workforce demand and the challenges faced in academics. I was privileged to be given a scholarship by the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) to be a part of the '22 Oregon Tourism Leadership Academy cohort. This provided a front seat to the work and challenges of this industry and a chance to dive deep into the industry knowledge I needed to spark change. I firmly believe that workforce development has missed an essential category: student career awareness. This is not an overnight fix. However, with the strategic integration of attention in our secondary programs, I am confident that students will understand the diversity of the HTR industry sector and the value of pursuing a career in this industry.
We have partners in the secondary and post-secondary space that are innovating and strategically removing barriers to increase opportunity and awareness for students. Frequently, these educational paths are Career & Technical Education pathways that drive interest in entering this industry. A high school has to map to a post-secondary partner. ORCA serves as a model of possibility for workforce development. The first Hospitality & Tourism Management virtual program that articulates directly to Chemeketa Community College (also a virtual program) has been a partnership of promise. Eric Aebi, with Chemeketa’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, has been instrumental in removing critical barriers to educators, including removing the MBA requirement to provide College Credit Now to students (a CTE requirement). We need more of these innovative partnerships to drive workforce development. I share this example because it's essential to understand that breaking down barriers and supporting innovation is not always common in academics but vital to progress. We need you as our industry partners to run alongside with our educational communities in supporting workforce awareness and development.
Here are four ways that you can immediately support the strategy of understanding across Oregon:
Career Connected Projects (OES):
If you haven’t heard about the Oregon Employability Skills Framework yet, visit www.oregonemployabilityskills.org for the details on this statewide program created out of necessity to meet industry demand for vital employees who exhibit consistent employability skills. The program has built-in career-connected learning tied to industry awareness and a badging system highlighting the badge holder's knowledge. This program is an open resource for education and industry partners. It provides relevant, real-life, valuable instruction to prepare our future students (and employees) for post-secondary education and career development. As part of the OES framework, there is an opportunity to secure space in career-connected learning projects that will support OES and awareness of your industry in the classroom.
Industry Videos (OES):
Oregon Employability Skills is in a Version 2 refinement. As part of this revision, companies are invited to be included in career journeys, career highlights, and skill development videos that showcase their industries. There are limited video opportunities, and this is a strategic way to help get your company in front of students across Oregon. It highlights how your company/industry supports the 10 OES skills and why they are essential for success.
Classroom Engagement / Guest Speakers:
In case you didn’t know, Oregon has a program for educators that simplifies the ability for professionals to get into the classroom, virtually. As educators are not always aware of how to connect with industry professionals, this program helps industry professionals engage with the school. Pathful Connect / Oregon Connections has a platform that has united education and industry professionals through a vetted network. This is a free service for industry professionals. You are invited to set up a profile to engage with students and classrooms across the state and beyond. You can participate via guest presentations, event days, or other career-connected programs on the platform. There is no easier way to share your industry experience and information.
Oregon has two paths for CTE education in this career cluster. Students in these pathways typically work towards one of two certifications that Oregon Department of Ed recognizes for the Industry Recognized Credential component of a High Quality CTE program. Those certifications include: NRAEF’s ProStart Certification or AHLEI’s CHTMP. The most effective way to drive students into the HTR industry: culinary studies and Hospitality, Tourism & Recreation. We have limited programs across the state, and with teacher attrition and licensure in these categories, it is essential that you get your voice heard in your local school districts. Industry demand often drives CTE program development, and sharing your workforce needs may encourage pathway development in your local area. However, the reality is that CTE teachers are limited, especially in smaller districts or remote areas of Oregon, which are the regions that demand HTR jobs. Oregon Charter Academy has developed a solution. District programs bring the HTR educator and instruction directly to any classroom across Oregon. For districts needing help finding a teacher or more resources to develop a pathway, we have a plug-and-play solution mapped directly to Chemeketa's HTM certificates and degree programs, providing students with a direct path into your company. | Summer Highfill, Oregon Charter Academy
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Oregon Employability Skills / WESD
Summer Y. Highfill, MBA, is a Master Teacher in CTE Business Pathways at Oregon Charter Academy. She is also a 2022 graduate of the Oregon Tourism Leadership Academy.
The Oregon Hospitality Foundation (OHF) team includes Courtney Smith, ProStart Manager, Ella Sturdevant, Workforce Development Coordinator, and Jason Brandt, President & CEO (ORLA) / Foundation Board Member.