Hospitality Industry and Community Colleges

The last couple of years have seen the rise of celebrity chefs as top television personalities. Programs like Chopped, Top Chef, Cupcake Wars and Master Chef have introduced millions to the fast-paced life of the kitchen. Working as a chef was once viewed as a dreary job in the service industry. It is now viewed as a respected and well-paid position. Chefs are the new rock stars.

Starting out, a chef can earn $18 to $20 an hour with an opportunity for advancement. The hospitality sector remains strong and is positioned for additional growth over the next several years.

Community colleges recognized that they could train future chefs for less money than schools of culinary arts. These culinary schools charge around $19,000 for a certification program and around $37,000 for a two-year degree. The same two year associate's degree at a community college like Ivy Tech in Indiana would cost less than $10,000. Ivy Tech is now "the largest provider of post-secondary undergraduate hospitality studies" in the state.

In addition to chefs, the hospitality industry employs meeting planners, convention center coordinators, beverage managers, dietary managers and restaurant administrators. Many of these jobs only require certificates that can be obtained after a sequence of technical and professional courses and passing a national exam. Jobs in these fields pay anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 and offer opportunity for growth.

States not usually thought of as tourist destinations are earmarking more money to attract tourists. Michigan, for example, has seen a dramatic rise in tourism following its successful television campaign "Pure Michigan." Tourist dollars, in turn, support more jobs in the hospitality industry. The U.S. Department of Labor projects 16 percent growth in this sector compared to 14 percent growth in all industries combined.

Young people have traditionally made up most of the workforce for the hospitality sector. This is slowly changing as more older workers and those displaced from manufacturing jobs, for example, are being recruited. The image of the industry is also changing largely due to channels like the Food Network, which depicts jobs in restaurants and hotels as challenging and rewarding.

Individuals interested in exploring certification or an associate's degree in hospitality should check with their local community college to find out about partnerships local businesses may already have in place to train their workforce.

Has your city just increased the size of its convention center? Are there more restaurants springing up in one section of town? Are there new assisted-living centers? If so, it's a safe bet that there will be the need for more hospitality workers. It is also an industry that provides professional development and promotes from within, which is important to those who want a career rather than just a job.