Reflecting on the Hospitality Student Career Summit: Paving the Way Towards Employment

Heather R. Singleton
Interim President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

The recent Hospitality Student Career Summit, hosted by the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA)/RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF), was an inspiring and transformative event for everyone involved. As interim president/CEO of RIHA and RIHEF, I’m immensely proud of the effort put forth by our team and partners to create an enriching experience for the more than 200 local high school students enrolled in culinary arts, foodservice, and hotel management programs, who gathered at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence to engage with industry professionals and explore various career pathways.

The summit encapsulated our mission to equip students with the tools and confidence they need to embark on their professional journeys. The event featured a series of breakout sessions designed to provide practical skills and valuable insights. One of the standout sessions was "Highway to Employment," where HR professionals guided students on building confidence, presenting their best selves, and navigating job interviews. This included mock interviews with sample questions, offering students a taste of real-world interview scenarios.

Throughout the day, students actively participated in sessions that covered essential topics such as resume building, interview techniques, and effective communication styles. They arrived well-prepared, bringing printed resumes and business cards, eager to make connections and learn from industry leaders. This firsthand experience was invaluable in helping them understand the importance of professionalism and preparedness in the job market.

The significance of first jobs and training in shaping one's career trajectory cannot be overstated. These initial experiences lay the foundation for future success by teaching responsibility, teamwork, and customer service skills. Through our sessions, students learned not only the technical aspects of their chosen fields but also the soft skills essential for thriving in any workplace.

A particularly rewarding aspect of the summit was the opportunity to discuss the scholarship funds available for ProStart or HTMP students who are looking to pursue higher education and need financial assistance. By investing in these students, we are investing in the future of the hospitality industry, ensuring it remains vibrant and innovative for years to come.

The event also emphasized the role of social skills in professional settings. Students were advised on the importance of first impressions, social media presence, and respectful interactions. These are crucial elements that often determine how young professionals are perceived by potential employers.

Reflecting on the summit, I’m struck by the enthusiasm and dedication displayed by the students. Their eagerness to learn and grow reaffirmed our commitment to nurturing the next generation of hospitality professionals. The interactions between students and seasoned industry veterans were particularly heartening, as they highlighted the wealth of knowledge and experience our industry has to offer.

The success of this event underscores the critical role of education and training in the hospitality industry. At the RI Hospitality Association and the RI Hospitality Education Foundation, we are dedicated to providing opportunities for career growth and development. Our programs are designed to support students, unemployed adults, and current employees, ensuring that everyone has access to the training and resources needed to succeed in our industry.

The Hospitality Student Career Summit was more than just an event; it was a stepping stone for many young individuals on their path to professional success. It reinforced the importance of education, training, and mentorship in building a strong and dynamic workforce. By fostering these connections and providing these opportunities, we are not only helping individual students, but also strengthening the hospitality industry as a whole.

Together, we are building a brighter future for hospitality in Rhode Island and beyond.