Hospitality education in the United States experienced its greatest growth in the 1980s – along with the booming economy and expansion of the greater hospitality and tourism industry. In 1992, there were 128 hospitality programs at academic institutions in the United States offering bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees in the field. These programs varied from the generalized study within a more traditional College, i.e., College of Business, to specialized and focused study of hospitality disciplines and contexts within a hospitality-specific Department or College, i.e., College of Hospitality & Tourism Management.
In 2019, Statista (a leading provider of market and consumer data) reported that there were 19.91 million students enrolled in United States’ colleges. In the same year, College Factual estimated that 13,547 people would pursue a degree in Hospitality Management each year; ranking it 42 in terms of popularity out of 384 college majors. Institution-specific reports and forecasts indicate that enrollments and degrees in the hospitality and tourism segment will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. In addition, university Career Fairs, internship credit hours and management training programs in Hospitality Management continue to provide portals for students interested in beginning careers in this field. Given the current labor pool and record-high employment rates, getting to students that are considering college, determining degree programs, fulfilling internship requirements or nearing graduation has proven to be a successful and efficient way in which to recruit high potential employees.
Sadly, timeshare-specific education has declined in the United States. Just 10 years ago, more than a dozen institutions offered timeshare-specific coursework or content within a more generalized area of study. Today, timeshare curriculum has dwindled with only two institutions offering one or more courses, explicitly focused on the timeshare industry. A common trend exists within academia in terms of timeshare research and academic publication. Interviews of academics teaching and/or doing research in this area reveal a number of reasons fueling the decline: reduced course enrollments, lack of funding and/or resources to assist faculty in their development and delivery of timeshare-specific content, realignment of faculty resources to other areas, absorption of timeshare as a topic within generalized coursework rather than a stand-alone course, lack of industry presence on campus related to student hiring leading up to and upon graduation.
On the positive side, 10 years of data collection and analysis surveying college students about their perception of the timeshare industry, its product features and benefits, attractiveness of employment, and future willingness to use and/or purchase timeshare, continue to indicate that formalized education at the university level leads to a significantly positive shift in college students’ impressions of the industry. Moreover, institutions with formalized timeshare-related recruitment and hiring tend to have more robust student enrollment in timeshare-specific coursework, programming, and events. Interviews with students that are enrolled in the coursework indicate a degree of convenience when initially selecting the course more so than a genuine interest in the topic. However, interest in the topic increases as students are more educated and aware of the size of the industry, diversity of career paths, opportunity to work at or with a resort-style product, pathways for advancement and cross-training, as well as the initial and future compensation benefits when compared to traditional lodging. Students that enter the industry report back a personal understanding of the longevity that exists with employees in the industry. Numerous students who have taken an initial timeshare job to fulfill a requirement (internship hours, summer job, or part-time position) report their delight in working in such a unique environment with a paycheck that is difficult to give up or replicate.
Whether it is timeshare-specific coursework or content embedded in a broader course topic, formalized education exposes future employees to the industry, provides a foundation of industry knowledge, and positively influences overall perceptions. Therefore, it seems logical that industry should reach out to institutions that have existing coursework and programs, but also to geographically targeted institutions that can be gateways for future employees. Here are a few ways to engage with Colleges and Universities:
- Attend existing Career Fairs – one measure of success for universities is employment after graduation. As a result, most have one, if not more, Career Fairs or other recruiting opportunities that employers can attend. Set up like a trade show booth with lots of engaging headlines, pictures, and promotional merchandise. Be sure to staff your booth with several employees who can speak to students about your company and the opportunities available, collecting resumes and business cards, or having students sign up on an app or tablet.
- Schedule an Information Session – ask to use/rent available space (an auditorium, a classroom, a conference room) to conduct an information session wherein you tell students (and faculty) about your company, products/services, customers, employees, history, culture, etc. Incorporate a few younger employees who recently graduated from college and can speak to their career story at your company.
- Be a Guest Speaker – faculty and students benefit from having industry come into the classroom. Check the course offerings at the local university to find a relevant topic on which you’d like to speak, then reach out to the Department Chair or Faculty listed on the institution’s website for an opportunity to come in to the classroom.
- Schedule a Property Visit – field trips work for classes, student clubs/organizations, and students living on campus, as well as faculty. Everyone benefits from seeing how what they are doing in the classroom applies to and fits in with the “real world.” Consider including a speaker panel populated by individuals at various levels in multiple departments. Conducting the panel with snacks and beverages encourages people to attend.
- Host a Workshop – help students understand how to interview, create a business card, build a network, search for and apply for jobs, or make their resume more impactful. This provides a service to the university while allowing your company to interact with potential employees.
- Build Internships and Management Training programs – the key to these programs is structure and commitment on the company side. The work the students do should be meaningful (to you and them), varied to expose them to various parts of the organization and fairly compensated. There is a beginning and an end with the goal (but not a promise) of long-term employment.
Reach out to universities and colleges to learn about what they are already doing, what things you may do to assist, and how you can work together to achieve common goals. Most institutions have a Student Services Office and that is a great place to start as these areas may often be overwhelmed with needs.
About the author – Dr. Amy M. Gregory, RRP is an Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Rosen College of Hospitality Management – Department of Foodservice & Lodging Management. After more than 20 years in the timeshare industry, Amy was hired by UCF to develop/teach the timeshare curriculum, expand academic research in the timeshare segment, and work with industry to develop inroads for students in the timeshare industry.