The hospitality and tourism industries are booming right now in Colorado, particularly in the Denver area. In the middle of that state-wide boom is Aurora, which, thanks to new development in recent years, is hosting many new residents as well as people visiting the area. Pickens Technical College is a part of the Aurora community, of course, and has for years worked to bring its students as close to the booming hospitality and tourism economy as possible so they can get the skills and the connections they need to pursue a successful career.
PTC’s Hospitality Program is split into two parts: Semester one is all about learning the theory behind the hospitality and tourism industry. This includes all the components that go into it, such as transportation, attractions, food and beverage, and accommodations. Reiser puts an emphasis on accommodations, particularly how hotels and all of their departments work. Semester two examines those hotel departments further with a leadership perspective, including how marketing theory fits within this context. The course’s capstone project is a marketing cooperative learning experience at a pre-approved site.
Kim Reiser teaches the class. Reiser has 19 years of experience at the high school, middle school, and community college levels as a business and marketing instructor. Her instruction approaches the hospitality and tourism industry from a strategic marketing angle, a refreshing perspective for anyone who’s sat through any of those awful training videos in which you learn how to greet a customer.
PTC has a unique partnership with the tourism and development group Visit Aurora, a consortium of local businesses with the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. Visit Aurora connects PTC students with internships and other opportunities on a regular basis. Reiser has gotten many of her students this semester into internships at several Visit Aurora partner hotels and other organizations connected with Visit Aurora. Via these connections, Reiser’s students are interning as you’re reading this (although it depends on what time of day you’re reading this) and getting front-line experience in the tourism and hospitality industry at DoubleTree, Radisson, Mariott DIA, the Denver Aquarium, and more.
Reiser explained how she prepares her students for the real world with real experience:
My students are learning about Hospitality and Tourism and earning a certification from the [American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute] which requires that they complete 100 internship hours. We obtain those hours through guest speakers [such as]…Hotel General Managers, Human Resource Managers, and Parks and Recreation Directors, skill sessions at a local hotel, DoubleTree Aurora, once a month in the evening, and industry tours [like] DIA [and] Union Station, and 30 – 40 hours on-site independently.
Reiser’s students have found success in their burgeoning careers because of their on-the-job training and Reiser’s emphasis on marketing strategy. One student works at the Denver Aquarium, where she combines the skill and experience she acquired from two PTC programs: photography and hospitality, at the photo kiosk. Another works the front desk at a Town Place Suites near Park Meadows while she furthers her education at Metro State University. Still, more of Reiser’s former students have found careers at DIA, fancy Las Vegas resorts, and local businesses.
The Hospitality program at PTC is designed to set up students for success in the tourism industry and creates opportunities for them to rise quickly in a hospitality organization with their knowledge of how these businesses work from the top down.