Practical Experience is Best When Training for Careers

Practical Experience is Best When Training for Careers
Posted on 07/16/2015

By Caitlin Evans, Hospitality & Tourism Program Teacher at Worcester Technical High School

In the hotel industry, I have experienced endless innovation. “Outside the box” thinking and the ability to make decisions quickly while anticipating guests’ needs are all traits needed to succeed in this field, so I felt it was important to prepare my students for the exciting, yet often chaotic world of the service industry.

To that end, I engaged my Advanced Hospitality and Tourism students in planning and executing a real event to serve as the culminating capstone project for the course. This project needed to be reflective of the hard work that goes into planning an event and test the problem solving skills of the students involved. The client meetings, brainstorming sessions, organizing, planning, creating, practicing, and the overall execution of the event had to be a first-class experience, so what better way for students to learn than to train and practice for a real event.

Through a collaboration with Pocomoke High School principal, Annette Wallace, it was decided that the students would plan and executive the school’s scholastic achievement (WeXL) banquet. In planning meetings, students listened attentively to Ms. Wallace for guidelines, budget and specifications. The students were responsible for developing a theme for the event, designed and ordered the invitations, fashioned and produced table centerpieces. They met with the local community center catering team to choose the dinner menu, created a backdrop for photography, and even made music and lighting selections for the evening.

Students rigorously worked to stay on time and under budget. Students took the initiative to approach local businesses for donations and support, resulting in an even more spectacular event for attendees. A local peacock farmer donated fallen feathers to further beautify the centerpieces, and another local business donated a lighting display.

The banquet, held on May 14, was a complete success, with all attendees – school administration, parents, students and others – experiencing an event that could easily have been planned by seasoned professionals.

This culminating class project has not only benefitted the students in the advanced course and Pocomoke High School, but it has resulted in increased interest and enrollment in the Hospitality and Tourism program. Participating students have shared with their fellow students stories of the real world opportunities the project, and the program as a whole, has provided them. Students have described the project as having given them confidence, sharpened their problem solving skills, demonstrated the importance of communications and organization, provided an invaluable foundation in budgeting and finance, and lastly, ignited their passion for the service industry.

I look forward to expanding this project with future classes in the hospitality program, and I am excited to find more partners in the community to help bring event planning projects like this to life.

The hospitality capstone project earned recognition in the Celebrating Innovation Recognition Program. If you have questions about the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program, please contact Worcester Technical High School at 410-632-5250.