Two weeks ago I, along with our Interim Dean for Service and Hospitality, Kim Olson, attended an event in Sheboygan that focused on the hospitality sector of our state’s economy. The event, sponsored by the Wisconsin Technical College System, featured savory food items prepared by Culinary Arts students and led by the faculty from Fox Valley Technical College, Moraine Park Technical College and Lakeshore Technical College. It also featured several speakers who each brought an interesting perspective regarding this industry—Morna Foy, WTCS President; Paul Bartelt, President/CEO of Vollrath Company; Chef Stefano Viglietti, Restauranteur; and Jason Mengel, Championship Director for the PGA of America.
With so much attention often placed on the state’s key economic sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, and construction, we sometimes forget that there are other large and critical sectors that make up a vibrant marketplace in Wisconsin. Hospitality and tourism is one of these with $17.5 billion in annual revenue and is certainly related to another big player, the agriculture industry in Wisconsin with annual revenue of $88.3 billion. Not unlike other industry sectors, hospitality and tourism leaders are concerned about where their workforce will come from in future years with Baby Boomers retiring in great numbers, declining numbers of high school graduates, and the growing demand for services in hotels, restaurants, resorts, conference centers, major events, etc.
It was great to see hospitality and tourism featured through this event and others that were held the same week in both Madison and Milwaukee. I was very proud of our instructors, Chef Richard Williams and Chef R.C. Schroeder, as well as their students who represented our program and our College in wonderful fashion that evening. I know one thing….Wisconsin’s technical colleges will play a major role is supporting this industry and other sectors in the years to come. What do you think our greatest challenge will be in meeting these industry needs?