In January, at the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) Night of a Thousand Stars celebration in Los Angeles, the organization announced that the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation would be rebranding as the AHLA Foundation. LODGING connected with Rosanna Maietta, AHLA Foundation president and EVP of communications and public relations at AHLA, and Greg Juceam, chair of the AHLA Foundation Board and president and COO of G6 Hospitality, to discuss the AHLA Foundation’s new identity and the importance of education in the hotel industry.
How have the educational offerings available to those in the hotel industry been evolving over the years?
Rosanna Maietta We have always been an industry of people taking care of people and that’s why the industry invests in the men and women who are the heart of hospitality—they are our greatest resource. The need to advance our employees has never been greater, and we are trying to stay one step ahead of our employers so that AHLA’s Foundation can be the one-stop solution when it comes to employee advancement and retention. We do this by finding the right partners and creating programs like our Debt-Free College solution, which allows current employees to go back to college by taking courses online that work with their schedules for maximum flexibility. We are also seeing a lot of AHLA member companies thinking outside the box to provide educational support to their staff, including virtual reality modules.
We’ve seen the news that AHLEF is rebranding to become the AHLA Foundation. Why is now the right time for that change?
Rosanna Maietta As the industry’s charitable giving organization, we have always worked hand-in-hand with AHLA, listening to AHLA members about the biggest needs facing our industry and creating innovative programs that share the industry’s story of opportunity and advancement. To meet the changing needs, our organization needs to change too and align more closely with AHLA so there is no confusion about who we are and what we do to support the industry. In the past three years alone, the Foundation has increased the number of individuals we serve by 915 percent and doubled our investment in career advancement programs. As the Foundation continues to grow and scale the impact of our programs, we wanted to ensure that our partners understood the special relationship we have with AHLA, while at the same time build brand awareness that we are a Foundation that is funded entirely by generous companies and individuals who want to give back to the hotel industry and ensure its success.
What are some of the AHLA Foundation’s goals for 2020?
Greg Juceam This year, the Foundation will expand our Empowering Youth Program from six cities to 10, introduce new apprenticeship programs, grow our Debt-Free College Program, and award over $1 million in scholarships. At the same time, we are exploring innovative partnerships with Catalyst Kitchens to expand community partnerships to 75 new locations and Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) to educate disadvantaged youth on hospitality career opportunities in 39 states. We also plan to unveil a new premier event called ELEVATE to bring students, the academic community, and industry together to explore the future of the industry and get them one step closer to a lifelong career in the industry. Additionally, we will continue to explore creative solutions to address some of our employee’s pain points, including work flexibility, transportation and salary timing. We have bold plans for 2020 and are eager to do more, faster.
What can hoteliers do to support staff members who may be pursuing ongoing education?
Rosanna Maietta The three biggest barriers we see preventing staff members from pursuing ongoing education are cost, access, and timing. A recent Gallup/Northwestern University study shows that 65 percent of Americans say the biggest barrier to lifelong learning is cost. That is why the Foundation has partnered with Pearson’s Accelerated Pathways to introduce a groundbreaking program to offer hotel industry employees at more than 2,000 properties nationwide a chance to earn a college degree at no debt to them. We are also seeing a rise in many hotels even offering on-site educational classes. Finally, hoteliers should work with their staff members to arrange work schedules around their course load and help provide the flexibility they need to pursue additional education while working.
How can someone in the hotel industry best marry their practical experience with an educational program?
Greg Juceam We are seeing a lot of success when employees can partner on-the-job training with educational learning. That is why we continue to see the Foundation’s Apprenticeship Program as one of our most successful initiatives. Additionally, our Lodging Manager Program has achieved a 94 percent retention rate among its enrollees. We are very excited about our new Cook Apprenticeship Program, which will start this year, and we are exploring additional apprenticeship programs for sales and engineering. For those in our industry that are interested in additional education, I would encourage exploration of the Foundation’s many educational offerings to see if any of the programs, scholarships, or certifications might help them get one step closer to reaching their dream job.
In the past three years alone, the AHLA Foundation has increased the number of individuals it serves by 915 percent.
Hospitality is known for offering opportunities to people without a formal education. Is that changing?
Greg Juceam Absolutely not. This is the tightest labor market we have seen in a generation. Yet, at the same time, the industry has been on a growth trajectory for more than nine years. With over 800,000 open jobs across the country, our industry needs more talented people to fill essential jobs and ensure the quality service and amenities our guests expect and deserve. The AHLA Foundation is committed to providing scholarships and educational resources to help individuals advance in the industry regardless of prior education level.