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Careers in hospitality and tourism management: Jobs take grads to interesting places, program helps them land leadership roles

August 10, 2022

When Laneil Smith got into the restaurant industry, it wasn’t just for the love of food — it was for the love of creating an experience.

“I think so many people connect through food and drink,” says Smith, owner of Marion Street Eatery in Winnipeg — and a graduate of RRC Polytech’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program — in a recent alumni profile.

“I think of relationships I’ve created in the past and usually they revolve around the dinner table in some form.”

Creating that experience — whether it’s an international vacation or a sit-down dinner — is at the heart of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and it starts with a foundation of building customer service skills. These skills allow students and grads to turn their passion for the industry into something that’s pleasing for customers.

“We have courses on customer service,” says Lori Slobodian, instructor in Tourism Management, one of two second-year specializations that students choose from, along with Hotel and Restaurant Management.

“We have all kinds of courses to help students develop those skills if they don’t have them.”

“As they develop those skills, they have to develop teamwork, exceptional interpersonal skills, good self-control, emotional intelligence and empathy — all big pieces of leadership,” adds Blair Mineault, an instructor on the Hotel and Restaurant Management side.

There’s also the option for students to exit with a certificate after one year and enter the workforce with their foundational skills.

Regardless of the path, the end goal of the program is to graduate a student that is ready to be a leader in their workplace. Part of getting there is lab work done at Jane’s, a fine dining restaurant in Winnipeg’s Exchange District that’s open to the public and is staffed by both Hospitality and Tourism Management students, along with those in Culinary Arts.

“For a lot of them, they’ve never worked in a restaurant before,” says Slobodian of the Jane’s experience.

“So it’s a brand new environment. It’s a fine dining restaurant, too, so the dress code is different, and dealing with customers is on a different level, so they develop all those power skills to be successful in that situation — and that transfers over to their co-op positions, as well.”

“They learn how to interpret information,” says Mineault. “The menu at Jane’s is very complicated, a lot of it is in French terms, so students learn to be able to interpret the terms on the menu and translate them with language guests can understand.”

The co-op is the other piece of the puzzle when it comes to real-world experience gained through the program. Students are set up on a co-op between their first and second year, and the options are endless — and exciting.

When asked about co-ops and careers, both Slobodian and Mineault waxed poetic on where their students and grads have taken their experience in the program.

On the tourism side, this includes working at national parks, provincial parks, with Frontiers North Adventures in Churchill, Lower Fort Garry, Disney cruises, and wineries from British Columbia to New Zealand. Grads have even gone on to becometravel writers with magazines or direct marketing organizations.

“Being able to write is so important,” says Mineault. “Being able to write solid correspondence, sales letters, job descriptions, social media content, website content, dealing with volunteers — we do a lot of writing in this business.”

On the hotel and restaurant side, grads have gone on to become director of sales at Hilton and to manage breweries like One Great City. There are careers in event coordination, amusement park management, meeting and event planning, travel coordination, and more. With a customer service and leadership mindset, doors fly open for those who build the skills demanded of them in the program.

“The skills students are learning in this program are highly transferrable, not only outside the province but also outside the country,” says Slobodian.

There are also opportunities to learn under RRC Polytech grads who have come before. Smith is one of those — a 2006 graduate, she has hired many kitchen and front-of-house staff out of various RRC Polytech programs. Her front-end manager, Hayley McMurray, was a Hotel and Restaurant Management grad in 2014.

This shows her respect for the skillset learned in the program, which has a created a pipeline into both the local industry and beyond.

“There’s a foundation that’s learned through RRC Polytech,” says Smith.

“When I was in school, it was partly about creating skills, but it also built my strength and confidence to improve and excel within the industry. You see that students have that foundation now, that base and the eagerness of wanting to learn more.”

Hospitality and Tourism Management

Develop in-depth business knowledge and learn to create exciting and engaging experiences across the tourism and hospitality industries. The Hospitality and Tourism Management program is still accepting applications for the upcoming Fall 2022 intake, but seats are limited so apply today.

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Profile by John Gaudes (Creative Communications, 2012)