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Joe Porter is a senior enrolled in hospitality classes at OSU-Cascades, which currently offers hospitality courses within its business degree program. A maintenance manager with Vacasa Rentals, a vacation rental home management company with properties in Central Oregon, Porter wishes the four-year hospitality program had been available when he began his studies. 

“What I’ve learned in these classes has been directly applicable to my work,” says Porter.  “A four-year degree in hospitality as opposed to a business degree with a hospitality option would have been even more valuable.”

Montgomery says graduates of four-year hospitality programs have higher job-placement rates than other fields of study. “There’s lots of opportunity,” he says. 

The data seems to support that assertion. A first-of-its-kind study by Oxford Economics and the U.S. Travel Association shows that workers beginning their career in the tourism and hospitality industry earn higher average wages throughout their lifetime and enjoy better career progression than workers starting out in other fields. 

According to the 2012 study, based on data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average maximum salary for employees who start out in the travel sector reaches $81,900. The report also noted that two out of five workers starting their careers in the travel industry eventually earn more than $100,000 per year.

OSU’s new hospitality program will help more workers reap the financial — and lifestyle — benefits of a tourism career. “Most people who graduate with this degree go directly into management,” Montgomery says. “The salaries are competitive and give people the opportunity to work in locations around the country and the world.”

Teen Chefs: Cooking up a future

In addition to supporting OSU’s new hospitality management degree program, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association Foundation helps fund a two-year culinary and hospitality management training program in the high schools. This program, ProStart, was created by members of the restaurant industry and is curated via the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation. In Oregon, it is currently offered in 39 high schools with 3,000 students participating. Nationally, 95,000 students participate in this school-to-work training program. 

The program awards more than $1 million in scholarships annually with strong statistics to back up the effort. In fact, five years after earning the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement, 81% of ProStart students are still studying and/or working in the industry.

Higher Hospitality

In addition to OSU, many other Oregon higher-education institutions offer various forms of hospitality and/or culinary arts programs, including:

Central Oregon Community College

Chemeketa Community College

Lane Community College

Mt. Hood Community College

Oregon Culinary Institute

Southern Oregon University

SW Oregon Community College

Tillamook Bay Community College

The Art Institute of Portland

Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu

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