Students, hotels benefit from hands-on college program

Students at the University of South Florida's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management will soon be able to get hands-on experience working in a hotel before graduation

This innovative new program was announced Wednesday and is made possible by a new multi-hotel partnership.

"This announcement is truly transformational, is timely, relevant and impactful," said Moez Limayem, Lynn Pippenger Dean at the USF Muma College of Business.

The University of South Florida Muma College of Business and McKibbon Hospitality are joining forces. The new partnership will turn some premier hotel brands into intensive student training grounds.

"We own and operate approximately 100 hotels throughout about 10 states and primarily in the southeast with Marriott, Hilton Hyatt and IHG," said the president of McKibbon Hospitality, Randy Hassen.

The affiliation creates a teaching lab program for School of Hospitality and Tourism Management students, giving them the entire McKibbon portfolio to select as an internship location for any area of interest.

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"Serving guests in the restaurant, or at the front desk, or in the back of the house," explained Hassen. "And really kind of understand where they fit in, where their strengths lie, and we'll allow them to say what career path they want to choose."

Officials say no other hospitality school in the nation has this type of partnership. It comes at a time where the industry is facing a talent shortage. We are told when these students graduate they will have a huge advantage with practical experience, ready to fill those jobs.

"96% of students who have practical internships, experiential learning will have a job at graduation or very shortly after. This is the key. This is the one success factors were that will determine if they will have that great job or not have that great job," said Limayem.

The School of Hospitality and Tourism Management is also growing. In 2022 the major will also be available at the USF Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses.