A new hotel industry pilot program is offering college associate and bachelor’s degrees to adult hospitality workers for little to no cost. In partnership with Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and its foundational group, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), announced the program on a press call Wednesday, Feb. 28.
“In a business that’s taking care of people, we simply could not do that without a strong and talented workforce,” Katherine Lugar, AHLA president and CEO, says. “The men and women of hospitality are the heart and soul of our business.”
Pearson, which helps employees and companies manage tuition and benefits programs to improve education accessibility and affordability, found that employees weren’t previously taking advantage of these programs because of lack of flexibility and high costs of education. The AcceleratED Pathways program eliminates those concerns and is adaptable to each person’s needs.
The program takes into consideration work schedules and family life when setting up employees to take classes for degrees in business, general studies, and information technology. Pearson Executive Vice President James Homer says, “Pearson will work with partner companies to direct students working in the hospitality sector into pathways to no-cost associate degrees and low-cost bachelor’s degree programs that are suitable for them.”
Pearson says that it is upfront with advising services, helping students choose the degree path to embark on. Additional assistance includes signing up students for classes in advance and mapping out the skills that they want to acquire. “We provide them with a fully scoped degree path and get them enrolled in those courses ahead of time so they’re not phased with the burden of figuring out what class to take next or whether or not they can get into that class,” Homer explains.
As part of the piloting phase, 10 hospitality companies are offering this program at nearly 1,500 hotels. Participants include Wyndham Hotel Group, Red Roof, New Castle Hotels & Resorts, Hersha Hospitality Management, Pyramid Hotel Group, TradeWinds Island Resorts, The Ostoff Resort, and The Nines Hotel.
In an industry where workers can start in entry-level positions and work their way to executive staff, education is increasingly important in helping career advancement. The partnership offers benefits for both employees and the hotel, Homer says.
“Through the AcceleratED Program, employees will gain the necessary skills and credentials to advance their careers, while employers see increased returns […] through higher retention rates and increased employee satisfaction,” Homer explains. “Employees who will participate are often future leaders of the company and tend to be the best employees who are interested in self development.”
While the investment costs for the program cannot be quantified due to different school choices and degree programs, employers need to market the AcceleratED Program as free or low-cost education so that employees know that it is available and accessible to them. Rosanna Maietta, president of AHLEF, adds, “It’s a new step in our mandate to advance the careers of this industry’s employees to help them get ahead and move up the career ladder while strengthening our industry.”