USF and McKibbon Hospitality partnership to train Sarasota hotel managers

When Cihan Cobanoglu took over as dean of USF’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management in August, one question he asked was how the college was different from other programs. of State.

This led him to identify a potential partnership with one of the largest hotel operators in the country so that students at his school could undergo on-the-job training while continuing their education.

This partnership became a reality in November, when USF and McKibbon Hospitality signed an agreement that will transform the school into a leader in training the next generation of hospitality managers in the largest industry in the world. ‘State.

This partnership will help propel the school from nearly 200 students – all located today on USF’s Sarasota-Manatee Campus – to more than 500 students across the Sarasota-Manatee Campus, St. Pete Campus and the Tampa campus in the next two months. years, Cobanoglu said.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our students,” said the dean. “When they graduate, after completing this program, they can land a leadership position so quickly. “

Representatives from the University of South Florida and McKibbon Hospitality recently celebrated a partnership that will see students follow McKibbon employees to Gulf Coast hotels.  From left to right: Cihan Cobanoglu, Interim Dean of USF School of Hotel and Tourism Management;  Regional Vice Chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success, Brett Kemker;  Regional Chancellor for the USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus, Karen A. Holbrook;  Philanthropist and former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the USF Foundation, Les Muma;  McKibbon Hospitality President, John McKibbon;  the dean of USF Muma College of Business, Moez Limayem;  McKibbon Hospitality vice president of human resources, Ben Hom;  and McKibbon Hospitality President Randy Hassen.

This program will see shadow professional students at McKibbon Hospitality. McKibbon operates 92 hotels across the country. The company operates 17 hotels in Tampa and three in Sarasota.

Randy Hassen, president of McKibbon Hospitality, said the company is “completely on board” with the partnership, in part because the hotel manager knows how important it is to the industry to have talented people. point on-the-job training can be valuable.

Hassen said he worked in a hotel for four years while at the University of Georgia.

“I learned as much at the hotel as I did at school,” he said. “… If you want to be hired into a managerial position, you need hands-on experience.”

McKibbon hopes to shape the next generation of hotel managers by transforming their hotels into learning environments.

“Anyone in hospitality will tell you that two days are not the same,” he said. “And textbooks don’t even begin to cover the wide range of opportunities they will encounter at our properties.”

Cobanoglu said the program will have three levels where students can learn hotel operations, executive level leadership and an enterprise level that will focus on real estate and hotel development.

The impact of tourism

Tourism employs more than one million people in the Sunshine State, according to Visit Florida’s most recent annual report.

This same report assesses the direct economic impact of tourism on the gross domestic product of the state at 49.8 billion for 2019. Indirect and induced GDP figures stand at 21.2 billion and 25.5 billion, for an impact of nearly $ 100 billion on Florida’s economy in 2019.

The 2020 figure for the impact on GDP was not included, but the number of visitors was.

In 2019, the state had more than 130 million visitors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of visitors has fallen to just under 80 million visitors.

But Visit Florida notes in its annual report that tourism for 2021 has rebounded and may soon break records again.

Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the tourism and hospitality industry employs between 60,000 and 70,000 people in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

However, finding workers has been a challenge and Falcione sees the USF-McKibbon partnership as a way to alleviate the labor shortage.

“Workforce development must be a high priority,” he said. “We have experienced unprecedented growth over the past few months. It is not just our region, but all of coastal Florida.”

Lisa Krouse, CEO of Sarasota County Economic Development Corp., called the hospitality industry “an important part of our local business community” and that USF has “helped produce talent in this industry through its program. offered at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. . ”

“They play a vital role in producing strong talent for our local economy and we believe this partnership with McKibbon will only increase the school’s contributions to our economic health and diversity,” she said. declared. “We are particularly pleased that they are partnering with companies and paying such attention to our local workforce needs. the production of local talent cannot be underestimated. “

Patty Brylska, a senior tourism and hospitality student at USF, said she plans to get her masters at USF after graduating and is thrilled with how the partnership would improve her later years in college. .

She is particularly interested in that the program will show students many different ways they might fit into the hospitality industry.

“It will be amazing to be able to see exactly where I stand,” she said. “We will be able to learn everything that happens in the classroom on the ground. “

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