Higher Education

VCC’s Bachelor of Hospitality Management program prepares students to succeed in an ever-changing industry

Are you Vancouver’s newest burgeoning hotel baron or entrepreneurial maverick destined to operate your own restaurant? Given its growing diversity and current position as B.C.’s fastest growing industry, there have never been more promising opportunities for those seeking employment in the hospitality and tourism sector. With job-readiness and career growth potential at its core, Vancouver Community College’s new Bachelor of Hospitality Management (BHM) program gives students an enriched higher education experience through advanced skills training that will lead to initial employment and carry management potential in the future.

Under new leadership since March 2010, VCC has been repositioning itself to meet the needs of B.C.’s competitive labour market. With the implementation of its 2011-2014 Strategic Plan, VCC has embarked on a journey to become a leader in job and advanced skills training in B.C., and at the same time increase student access and success and positively affect communities.

“VCC, like other post-secondary institutions in B.C., understands the hard truths facing our sector,” says VCC President Kathy Kinloch. “We are facing an impending skills gap where the number of jobs in the province will exceed the number of people with appropriate skills or training. We believe one way to begin to address this skills gap starts with innovation and collaboration within the sector. Understanding that students want choices when it comes to their post-secondary education, we recently signed an agreement with BCIT and SFU to open doors, remove barriers that exist between one school and the next and explore new methods of program development.”

The catalyst behind the redevelopment of the full-time BHM curriculum is part of VCC’s desire to ensure the education is relevant, high-quality and cutting-edge, and ultimately, keeps pace with the trends of an ever-evolving industry. Changes in the hospitality industry after the steep drop in economic activity in mid-2008 have influenced how VCC has reconstructed its degree program to meet the emerging needs of academia and the provision of training.

“Probably the most obvious industry shift is the change in the staffing model,” says Mike Truscott, director of hotel operations at Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown and chair of VCC’s Hospitality & Tourism Advisory Committee. “We need to get more out of the resources we have and more efficiencies out of our operations. It’s been a company priority to leverage the technology that is out there, not only to make ourselves more efficient, but it’s what our customers are demanding,” he adds.

Mobile is the new face of computing, and tablets, smartphones and laptops have become critical tools for both hoteliers and their guests—restaurateurs too. Menus, wine lists and room service can now be accessed through iPads. “Consequently, no more human touch in some ways, but it’s more immediate,” says Truscott. Instantaneous correspondence with various B.C. properties is also on trend, with a new app geared to revolutionize communication with hotel guests. The Marriott Mobile app, for instance, alerts its Rewards members when their room is ready, allows guests to communicate their arrival time and ties their profile to their reservation, thus providing a more personalized and heightened check-in experience for the guest; not to mention, the app captures guest preferences so that the hotel can proactively use that data. It’s an aspect of a niche-marketing trend to know specifically who the customer is so that a specific audience can be targeted.

Social media channels like Twitter, Yelp, and TripAdvisor wield influential impact too. “We make an effort to respond to every review,” admits Truscott. “It’s a lot of work but it allows consumers the ability to give real-time feedback and for us to correspond immediately with those guests.”

[pagebreak]Sustainable hospitality and an eco-friendly agenda have made considerable strides in the industry. As a member of the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, Truscott acknowledges that some of the Marriott’s conference and business-meeting clients will book only if the hotel carries a particular green status. Understanding how consumers view green hotels has become increasingly important. B.C. restaurant menus are falling in line with sustainability too, from farm-to-table and nose-to-tail dining, to the 100-mile diet and Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program—locally sourced products appear to be more the norm than an anomaly.

International links are more imperative for hotels as international trade and business expand—a nod to the globalization trend. Many hotel companies have their eyes on international expansion, and overseas work holds wide appeal for graduates. International expansion with common product and brand position, steady influxes of foreign visitors and new residents of B.C., for example, are issues reshaping the global hospitality industry.

So, what do these trends mean to the hospitality managers of the future and what skill set will they need from VCC to be competitive? According to Truscott, “They’re going to need to be well-versed on the different technology platforms. The core of our business is not changing; guests come to have a good night’s sleep in a full-service hotel. But graduates need to understand there’s a new component that also contributes to the guest experience, and they need to be conversant on how that all works. Critical thinkers and problem solvers with a sense of leadership and awareness will be in demand.”

The BHM’s well-rounded curriculum underpins these changes and equips students with a sharp competitive edge at all levels of employment. When an employer hires a VCC graduate they are employing someone who is professionally trained and educated, job-ready and promotable.

VCC welcomes applications from Canadian citizens, permanent residents and international students. Accepting applications for September 2014, the new two-year BHM Regular Cohort (or one-year Executive Cohort) addresses the industry’s immediate needs, and accordingly, is the cornerstone to educating and training students for where the industry is headed.

VCC has overhauled the curriculum to identify a future track, one that preserves a student’s personal growth and development, while maintaining learning-focused courses that are collaborative and adaptive to changing industry trends. “This program allows courses to be updated and new courses introduced,” says Kevin Kovalycsik, department head of VCC’s Bachelor of Hospitality Management program. “It’s interchangeable and emphasizes the next three to five years. Moreover, it’s applicable to many different areas; we see our grads finding a career path, but also transitioning between different sectors because hospitality and tourism industries intersect and the skills are transferrable.”

The curriculum is conceived on three pillars: critical thinking and problem solving; leadership; and entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship. Encapsulated within these pillars are consistent themes of globalization/regionalization, technology, sustainability, ethics, customer service, guest experience and relationship building, among others.

“In addition to our traditional courses in revenue management, accounting, HR management and financial management, we’re particularly proud of our new courses,” says Kovalycsik. These new courses include Corporate Innovation, a focus on the emerging business arena of entrepreneurship and innovation; Principles of Customer Service, which looks at customer satisfaction and business relationship skills; eBusiness for a Networked World, which teaches communication technology and the world of business; and New Media Customer Engagement, which covers foundations of social media, strategic planning, social consumers and digital communities.

“Our faculty is among the best, they are successfully working in the industry, and have the connections and academic credentials to instruct and empower students for success,” says Kovalycsik