Kaua‘i students complete hospitality program

LIHU’E — During the fall semester, about 200 Kaua‘i public high school students participated in a program to learn and develop the skills to become leaders to the tourism industry.

The Service Excellence Certificate program was hosted by nonprofit ClimbHI in partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Education (DOE) Career and Technical Education (CTE) Hospitality Pathway.

The program funded access for students to enroll in Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration Service Excellence Online Training Lessons and provided additional training on incorporating the aloha spirit in more sustainable hospitality. This is the first year the program has been sponsored for Kaua‘i students.

“We learned about the sustainability of Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i and how we could make a difference to incorporate tourists and make our island better,” said Kaua‘i High School senior Kailen Salud.

Koloa Landing and Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association were the primary sponsors for students on Kaua‘i. The no-cost program was also available to students on other islands.

Director of Sales and Marketing at Koloa Landing Stacy Manzo sees supporting the program as a way to invest in the community and their future workforce.

“We have a vested interest in the community growth of our young folks to hopefully getting into hospitality,” Manzo said.

There’s huge value in investing in young people, she continued.

“They bring in a great deal of creativity, thinking outside the box, bringing fresh new eyes and ideas, especially with the way we communicate on social media and marketing,” Manzo said. “Young folks tend to view advertising and (public relations) in a different light.”

Fifty-six students from Kaua‘i High School completed the program. Crystal Ozaki, a career and technical education teacher, estimates that about 13 of those students are currently working in hospitality and that the skills they learned in the program will help those wanting to pursue other fields.

“It teaches you a lot (like) how to deal with people and how other businesses should work,” student Ethan Hoff said. “It’s not just hospitality businesses, but it gives a lot of great information for other areas as well.”

Hoff’s classmate Salud currently works for a furniture moving company and attributes the ClimbHi program for helping him improve his communication skills.

The program was popular with students, according to Ozaki. She hopes that ClimbHi and local businesses will continue to support the program next school year in addition to the January offering that is already scheduled.

“It’s a great program. And I feel that the kids really enjoyed and got something out of it,” said Ozaki. “I truly believe it is a valuable piece that has been added to my program.”

Hoff plans on attending college to study business management in California and sees hospitality as a career path that will allow him to return to the island.

“I see all the prices for land and housing. It’s kind of scary because it’s just increasing,” Hoff said. “I hope that by the time I come back, it’s not unaffordable for most of us that want to come back and live here in the future.”

Ozaki is hopeful that this program will give her students ample opportunities in the future.

“The more they learn, the more skills that they gain, that helps them to stay within Hawai‘i,” Ozaki said.

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