Michigan hospitality industry looks for younger workforce

Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 9:48 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Michigan Hospitality Foundation wants to help young people across the state find career stability in the restaurant, lodging and tourism industries.

The organization is partnering with academic institutions to help young professionals enter the workforce right after graduation. Executive Director for the Michigan Hospitality Foundation Executive Director and Vice President of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, Amanda Smith, said the Michigan Hospitality Foundation offers two main programs that can give students the skills they need to succeed in the industry: ProStart and Hotel and Tourism Management (HTM).

Both programs are open to college and high school students looking to gain hands-on hospitality experience while they complete their education.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith said hospitality sectors saw an immediate depletion in their workforce. Then, as shutdowns came and went, there were a number of peaks and valleys in employment. Now, restaurants, hotels and tourism hotspots are trying to get back what they lost.

Smith said there’s opportunities for young professionals to grow their wealth in the hospitality industry. Even if someone starts at the bottom of the food chain, they can work their way up.

“You don’t have to have a PhD to start here, but you can come out an owner, an operator, an executive chef,” she said. “Well above family sustaining wages. Well above head of household wages. You really can build a career in this industry.”

Michigan State University student Bobby Mowry said he’s been working in the restaurant industry since he was 16 years old. If people are willing to put in the time it takes, Mowry said they can find a way to advance their position. In only a few years, he went from bussing tables and washing dishes to bartending and serving at Bravo Italian Kitchen in Lansing.

“I started here as a dishwasher, and I worked my way up to pretty much everything under this roof. I was a team leader, which is a pseudo-manager, for a little bit,” he said. “Restaurants are a good place to build yourself up.”

Smith said the Michigan Hospitality Foundation has recently launched a campaign to inspire in young people an interest in hospitality jobs. She the intention of the campaign is both to help students find career stability in their futures, and continue strengthening the hospitality industry post-pandemic.

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