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Creating a Win-Win Summer Internship Program

Have you thought about a summer internship program for your hotel? See how hotels are benefitting by putting young adults to work.

Thursday, June 05, 2014
Steve Pike
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Summer isn’t all about sun and fun for teenagers and college students. It’s also about picking up some extra money and more importantly, experience in the hospitality industry. To that end, many resorts and hotels across the country employ teenagers and college students for everything for part-time work and internships for college credit.

So it’s no surprise there are plenty of young folks looking to land a solid internship or seasonal gig. These internship programs and summer employment opportunities vary by property and hotel company. But regardless, it’s a win-win for each side. That is, the students get the opportunity to work in the hospitality industry – often from the ground up – and the properties get summer help from enthusiastic young employees eager to learn.

The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, for example, typically has 1,000 employees year-round, but Gina Petrone, marketing communications coordinator for the historic resort, said that number increases to 1,500 during the summer months.

“We do offer unpaid internships for college students - providing they receive school credit for the internship - in our Culinary, HR, Catering, Pastry, Sales and Marketing departments year-round,’’ Petrone said. “We require the school to provide a certificate of liability insurance for the intern and the length of term is usually three months.’

Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla., has been participating in a program called “Summer of Success” for the past five years with the three campuses of nearby St. Petersburg College. The resort will bring in three sets of student tours this summer to introduce them to the various positions in the hospitality industry.

The Westin Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recently partnered with the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale to not only revamp its poolside cabanas, but to introduce students to the design side of the industry. The partnership sponsors a contest for the students to enter their artwork for a chance to be featured in the cabanas. A portion of the proceeds from renting those cabanas goes back to the winners in the form of a scholarship.
“What we get in summer and during breaks are students trying to fulfill their internship hours,’’ said Maribeth McElligott, human resources director at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples in Southwest Florida. “Some schools ask for a formal rotation program, but nowadays (students) need the actually field work – the hands-on experience.

“We do have internship opportunities throughout the year with Florida Gulf Coast University (in Estero, Fla.) We have lot of students who work here part time and full time, but we’re also approached just from the internship angle. Because they’re local, we’re able to work with them.’’

At the Wilderness at the Smokies waterpark resort, teens and college students fill a variety of positions and are a key part of the work force during peak summer visitation. Those jobs range from working in the Sevierville, Tenn., resort’s retail outlets and foods locations to attendants in the Adventure Forest family activity area and lifeguards.

“Many of the teens who work for Wilderness at the Smokies have grown up in families where tourism is the ‘family business,’ since hospitality is the number one employer here in the Great Smoky Mountains area,” said Steve Cruz, general manager at the waterpark resort. “They enjoy the atmosphere of working at our Adventure Forest family activity area and in one of our three waterparks (two outdoor parks and one indoor waterpark) during the summer – whether they are working in aquatics or another area.

“For the waterparks and Adventure Forest in particular, we have many high school students that graduate and go off to college and then return every summer and during other school holidays to work with us because of the atmosphere that comes with the job.”

Cruz said teens who live near Wilderness at the Smokies - located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - also are a valuable employee resource year-round, working in a variety of positions and staffing the indoor waterpark that is open year-round.

“Because of the nature of what we offer here – not just a resort but attractions like the Adventure Forest family activity area and our waterparks – we are an employer that younger workers like. And we love having this age group on our work force as well,’’ Cruz said.

The “home field advantage’’ also works well at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, which has jobs and internships at each of its properties – the Beach Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
“In the spring I start to get flooded with requests for summer jobs from people who have family here or who live in Naples,’’ McElligott said. “I usually forward them to my recreation director - she loves to get them. We have a lot of families and kids who visit. We have programs on the beach and other activities, so she needs extra hands to help her.’
Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., 45 minutes north of Orlando, offers four to six internships during the summer in multiple departments on property for local college students from a mix of local universities.

Wedding Sales Manager Shannon Tarrant is an alumna from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen School of Hospitality Management and is a major influence on the sales and marketing internship program at Mission Inn Resort. In early spring, the resort recruits from the University of Central Florida, University of Florida and Florida State University

This specific internship program, Tarrant said, is designed to provide an opportunity to learn hospitality event sales, resort marketing and event operations.

“The focus is on providing each intern a well-rounded experience of how all of our departments interact with each other on the front lines of marketing to bring the potential client to our sales team,’’ Tarrant said.

Students observe and participate in each step along the way, from selling the event from proposal to contract, and then servicing each event.

“The goal is familiarity in social media, ad design, inspiration photo shoots, networking, prospecting, touring, internal computer systems, client meetings, menu tastings, final walkthroughs and more,’’ Tarrant said. “We teach not only what we do, but take the time to explain the why behind it. Each intern has the opportunity to learn from each area of the resort as a whole and can enrich their experience by taking on additional responsibilities while they are interning at Mission Inn Resort.

“We appreciate feedback from interns, so we can assure that we are providing the instruction, knowledge and hands-on experience they need to succeed after college.
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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