Hospitality students go downtown for on-the-job experience

From the Benson Hotel, to the Hilton Hotel, and other top-drawer establishments in downtown Portland, see these David Douglas High School juniors getting a taste of working in the hospitality trade …

David Douglas High School students Jannette Young and Natalie Sutantodinata flank Rachel Huestis, Desk Manager at the Benson Hotel, as they learn to check guests into one of the city’s top lodging spots. The students look so professional, it’s hard to tell them from the manager!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Moving from the theoretical to the realm of the practical, 62 Hospitality & Tourism section students from David Douglas High School fan out across Portland for their annual “job shadow” day.

Thanks to the efforts of the program’s coordinator, Debbie Page, these junior-class students aren’t sweeping floors at a burger joint or changing sheets at a the No-Tell Motel. Instead, they are getting a first-class introduction to the business at businesses named Benson, Hilton, Monaco, and Greek Cusina.

They feel the heat, but they’re staying in the Benson Hotel kitchen, as students Jamison Miller and Marie Thompson help Executive Chef Scott Krushner get plates ready for a 150-seat upscale luncheon banquet.

Full-day experience
As we walk among several downtown locations, instructor Debbie Page fills us in on the students’ day.

First, she tells us, the students aren’t bussed in – they’re each responsible for getting to their jobs at their assigned starting times. “It is an eye-opening day for students to see what it’s like to get up, dress according to their hosts’ requirements, and find their way their job, and be on time.”

Each student will spend four to eight hours on the job today, explains Page. “In addition to learning a specific job to which they’ve been assigned, they’ve asked specific hospitality-industry questions that they’ve researched, and write a report based on what they learned.”

Additionally, Page continues, their hosts will complete an evaluation form and give the students feedback at the end of the four- to six-hour workday.

Preparing for international service
By providing specialized training in high school, Page reveals, their students have can often enter the workforce at above entry level

“And, this is growing industry segment,” Page elaborates. “Hospitality and tourism is the fourth largest industry Oregon – and the second largest job market worldwide. Once these kids learn certain skills, they can go anywhere in the world, and get a good job.”

Thomas Feseha learns from Hilton’s assistant director of front office operations, Brad Noah. “He’ll be checking guests in and out, referring guests to meetings at various locations, and learning about what I think is the greatest department in this hotel,” says Noah.

Tucked away in the Hilton Hotel offices, James Tiet works with junior accountant, Julian Xiong, learning “how the revenues flow in and out of our business.”

Good start in the industry
Todd Schaeffer, Director of Human Resources at the Portland Hilton, says they look forward to “job shadow day” at their business.

We’ve developed a close relationship with the David Douglas Hospitality and Tourism Program,” Schaeffer says. “Five students will work in five departments here today.”

This work/school connection helps them, because some of the students in the program learn they can work at entry-level positions where they can work while they’re going to school, he adds.

Bill Tritt, Hilton’s assistant director of catering, shows Hanh Nguyen about his department. “We’re showing him what a great opportunity it is to join an industry where you can start at the bottom and work your way to the top,” says Tritt. “I’ve been in the business for 26 years – what started as a job turned into a great career.”

Ashley Ortiz learns about the Hilton’s housekeeping department from director Cyndi Matto. “In our department,” Matto tells him, “there are new challenges every day; no day is the same.”

“Others will join the industry after they get out of school,” Schaeffer adds, “and find there is a real opportunity for career growth. Not all students are college-bound. The hospitality industry gives students the opportunity to find a great career path.”

Job shadows lead to internships
Accompanying us on our downtown tour is David Douglas Career Center counselor Deb Murray.

“It’s a really good experience for our students,” says Murray.

Greg Pinetti, the front office manager at the Hotel Monaco, shows students Chris Harrel and Jordan Olsvik the finer points of checking guests into this posh downtown boutique hotel.

“Not only is it a requirement for students to participate in a junior-year job shadow,” Murray explains, “it gives them a ‘snapshot’ of what it will be like when they go out for their business internship as a senior. The job shadow requires them to dress and speak professionally, and to interact with adults.”

At the Greek Cusina

Jonathan Byers and Dusty Whipple serve Debbie Page, Hospitality Tourism teacher at David Douglas High School, and Deb Murray, Career Center, David Douglas high School.

We stop in at Portland’s famous Greek Cusina and check in with two students, already at work, preparing for the lunch rush.

“I like how a chill everyone is,” comments Jonathan Byers, one of two students working at the restaurant. “Everyone is very nice, and this place is really cool. I think I’ll like working in the hospitality industry a lot.”

Fellow student Dusty Whipple adds, “I think would be good to have a job here. We’re learning what you don’t get to see and learn in the classroom.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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