This summer 18 teachers from 13 schools across Napa Valley became students again — but this time of the hospitality industry.
As part of its Hospitality Industry Partnership, the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay partnered with NapaLearns to sponsor teachers to work in seven Napa Valley hotels.
Those properties included Auberge du Soleil, Embassy Suites, Las Alcobas, Meritage Resort and Spa, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel, Silverado Resort and Spa and Westin Verasa Napa.
Teachers experienced real-world hospitality situations in areas such as culinary and food services, finance, guest services, human resources, and operations, which they will use to inform their teaching practices and classroom projects, said a news release.
These educators worked one-to-three days in a hotel or resort and reported back to the hosting hotels and sponsoring organizations at the end of the externships on how they will incorporate the experiences into their lessons and projects.
High schools, middle schools, and adult education schools participated, including American Canyon Middle and High Schools; Valley Oak, Justin-Siena, Napa High, New Technology High, Vintage High; Silverado, Redwood, River and Harvest middle schools; and Napa Adult Education.
“In general, students and teachers aren’t aware of the scope of the positions and rewarding experiences that are available in the hospitality industry,” said Cheryl Velasquez, director, human resources, Embassy Suites Napa Valley.
“There are many jobs and career pathways in resorts and hotels,” Velasquez said.
“We were very excited to work with educators to help them teach students the many skills required and make them aware of the opportunities available. We see this as an investment in a pipeline of future employees and our local economy.”
“Together with PG&E and Wells Fargo, we were happy to award innovation funds to initiatives like this because it connects the community to the industries in our region,” said Bruce Wilson, executive director at the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay.
“Partnering with NapaLearns to educate teachers about the hospitality industry helps to create a balance between the employment needs of our future job seekers and those of the hotels and resorts here in Napa.”
“We were thrilled to work with the Hospitality Industry Partnership to introduce teachers to the hospitality business so they can incorporate real life, relatable scenarios into their teaching practices,” said Peg Maddocks, executive director of NapaLearns.
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“Students love to apply their knowledge to practical situations that give them the skills they need outside of a classroom. As a result of the externships, we expect teachers to develop applicable, hands-on projects based on the knowledge they gain.”
Importance of teacher externships
These hospitality externships were designed to expose teachers to the skills required to be successful in the workplace through direct engagement.
Teachers can then relate those job requirements to their coursework in order to enrich and strengthen their teaching and bring relevance to student learning.
In addition, it is difficult for teachers to stay current on what’s happening in the business world.
The externships provide professional development opportunities to gain first-hand knowledge of how participating hotels and resorts use 21st century skills. This real-world involvement helps keep curriculum relevant and provides students with skills employers’ value.
The participating hotels and resorts benefit from the externships, too. Through the teachers, they are reaching hundreds of students and contributing to the preparation of their future workforce as the teachers pass along their acquired knowledge in their classrooms.
Louann Talbert teaches science and a Garden-to-Table Culinary program to students at River Middle School.
She explained, “My externship was at La Toque and I worked side-by-side with Michelin-starred chef Ken Frank’s staff.”
“I learned how important the essential ‘soft skills’ of collaboration, teamwork, and communication are to the success of a restaurant. A practical skill that I was reminded of is that measuring many ingredients is done by weighing mass, not cups, which I will incorporate in my classes,” said Talbert.
“Part of the main message from this amazing team of people is that there are a variety of job opportunities within the food service industry, with room for advancement to the top, for people that are passionate about cooking. And no college degree is necessary.”