Tourism boom benefits school
By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Lynda Arakawa
As tourism thrives in the Islands, so are professional opportunities for Hawai'i's college graduates.
A growing interest in the state's No. 1 industry has led to a jump in enrollment at the University of Hawai'i's School of Travel Industry Management. The school will add four new faculty positions in January and is looking at doubling the number of its graduates to 200 in the next few years to help meet the demand from tourism companies, according to Erika Lacro, interim assistant dean.
"We're just bursting at the seams in terms of classes," Lacro said. The school has 439 students in its undergraduate program, up nearly 30 percent from 2003, and the number is expected to continue increasing.
The planned growth of UH's TIM school couldn't come at a better time for the Hawai'i tourism industry. Visitor arrivals hit a record 7.46 million last year and businesses are expanding to meet the added demand.
"We could use the people," said Barry Wallace, Outrigger Enterprises Inc. executive vice president of hospitality services. "There are a lot of opportunities in the business in Hawai'i ... and we generally have had good experience with our (Hawai'i) grads."
Hawai'i's tight job market has made it difficult to fill entry-level management jobs from the local graduate pool, Wallace said. The demand for qualified employees will only grow as baby boomer managers begin to retire.
"What we would like to do is bring in more TIM school grads and put them in positions where they, over time, would become ready to be our next general managers," Wallace said. "The reason we look to UH TIM with great interest is that the graduates there are local people."
Outrigger also seeks graduates from Hawai'i Pacific University's travel industry management program, who tend to be more interested in international assignments, Wallace said.
The UH TIM school is having difficulty keeping up with demand from the industry.
"We have employers tell us, 'You're just not producing enough,' " Lacro said.
"The industry's doing so well and unemployment is so incredibly low right now that it's leaving a lot of companies with lots of management positions open."
The growth in Hawai'i's time-share segment also has created more opportunities.
"The recruiters are always knocking on the doors when it gets closer to the end of the semester," she said. "It's a good situation for us right now. The students are getting great positions.
"They're all getting jobs. Everybody is getting picked up. Ninety percent of them are going into entry-level management or higher positions. And a majority of them are staying within the state."
Entry-level hotel management jobs typically pay between $28,000 and $40,000, according to the UH TIM school. Neighbor Island properties usually offer the higher salaries to attract recent college graduates.
The added management jobs are making it possible for talented, young Hawai'i residents to stay in the Islands instead of moving to the Mainland as many did when the state's economy was stagnant through much of the 1990s.
The TIM school also has stepped up recruiting efforts in high schools and community colleges over the past couple of years.
Lacro said she's even noticed more interest from parents at career fairs.
"Now I've got parents pulling the students into my booth, saying, 'You've got to talk to them because if you want to stay in Hawai'i, this is the biggest industry,' " she said.
Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawai'i and French Polynesia, said opportunities in Hawai'i are growing. Vieira has pushed for UH's TIM school to get more state funding.
Between the company's hotels and time-share division, Starwood will grow by about a property a year over the next few years. Starwood Hawai'i also has expanded its management trainee program, starting with four trainees a couple of years ago to now 20 a year, Vieira said.
There's a continued demand for graduates, and "we've had great success stories with the university's students," Vieira said. "The quality of the education is excellent."
The UH TIM school is offering more classes during the summer, and will begin offering more evening classes that should help those already working in the industry to earn a degree, Lacro said. State funding for the four new faculty positions takes effect later this year — bringing total positions to 14 — and the new professors will begin teaching in January, she said.
Reach Lynda Arakawa at email@example.com.