Hospitality group looks to strengthen worker pipeline through online courses
- The American Hotel and Lodging Association’s foundation has launched a program that will make it easier for hotel industry employees to earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree at little or no cost to the worker. With a significant labor shortage — and after eight years of continuing job growth — it’s important to support worker training and strengthen the talent pipeline, said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, during a Feb. 28 media call.
- The association will offer tuition reimbursement and similar education-benefits programs and match hotel workers with an online degree program at an accredited community college or university. Since some employees already have some college credits, advisors will help them find the best program to meet their needs, and there will be five different start times to provide flexibility for working students.
- Although companies spend more than $22 billion on tuition reimbursement programs, fewer than 5% of workers use them, most often citing cost and flexibility as significant barriers, according to Pearson executive vice president James Homer.
At a time when industries desperately need workers with post-secondary training to fill “middle-skilled” jobs, the fact that only 5% of workers with access to employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs are heading back to classrooms speaks to a communications failure. What’s more, workers are leaving billions of higher education dollars unused each year because they don’t think they have the time or resources to pursue a degree.
What is even more apparent here is that businesses are no longer satisfied to wait for colleges or universities to change and address workforce needs on their own, and the coming years are likely to bring a variety of unique partnerships to meet educational and training needs, especially as the new PROSPER Act makes its way through Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
Though the hotel and lodging association is still going through existing accredited programs to re-train workers, it is contracting with Pearson to provide advisors and is not just handing students over to the institutions hoping for the best.
PROSPER includes provisions that will ultimately clear the way for more alternative programs to be considered eligible for financial aid and other federal funding — building on the Obama administration’s external sites program. This should open the door to more hybrid and collaborative models, perhaps not on the level of a near-final merger that would make Purdue University the owner of the online, for-profit Kaplan University, but certainly the industry can expect to see more partnerships like those emerging between traditional institutions and boot camps of late.