With 10 million visitors staying overnight in Virginia Beach every year, it’s no wonder that tourism generates more than $2 billion a year in the city. And it’s also why the hospitality business is always looking for employees.
But, says Junior Achievement education manager Lauren Ciampoli, “It’s not just making beds and checking people in. Working in hospitality is a career option. You can do all these really cool things.”
And that was the message she and her colleagues, along with members of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, hoped to deliver March 4 to 50 Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) students gathered in the opulent ballroom of the newly-restored Cavalier Hotel at the Oceanfront.
Junior Achievement (JA) is a nonprofit organization that teaches K-12 classes financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.
As Ciampoli explained, they’ve been partnering with area school systems in a series of job-sharing days, exposing students to various career options. For example, Green Run High School students explored environmental science jobs at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story last fall, while another Hampton Roads high school visited Busch Gardens to shadow jobs beyond selling food or operating rides.
This particular job-shadow event was a first for JA and the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, though, and a debut partnership with the Cavalier Hotel.
“We love to have a footprint in our community,” Brad Cance, general manager of the hotel, said in his welcoming speech to the room full of students and their teachers. “If you work here, your job is to create exceptional experiences.”
He reviewed the three steps of service, which he said apply across all careers:
- Always greet with a smile.
- Always anticipate needs.
- Always say “Thank you.”
After that, attendees were divided into groups to rotate on a grand tour of the hotel, focusing on occupations in hospitality, cuisine, the spa and engineering.
A job-shadow day is something that all VBCPS students are encouraged to participate in as part of their academic career plan.
“I wanted a full-on job experience,” said Hayden Hall, a sophomore at Kempsville High School’s Entrepreneurship and Business Academy, “and hospitality and tourism is interesting to me.”
What did he think of the Cavalier?
“Very nice,” he reported. “A lot nicer than I had imagined. Crazy nice.”
Danielle Ross, a junior at Landstown High School, could imagine herself interning at the Cavalier. “I don’t know if I will go into a job in travel and tourism,” she mused. “But it helps to come here and get some hands-on experience, see how the front and back of desk work in a business.”
Of course, given the Cavalier’s storied past, someone finally asked what many on the tour were wondering.
“Is the Cavalier haunted?”
Michael Kokolis, director of sales and marketing, smiled and reported that lights go on and off and doors open and close unexplainably.
“There is an energy here unlike anything else in Virginia.”
The day went well enough to earn the event a permanent slot in the job-sharing program, according to Dr. Sara Lockett, director of the office of technical and career education for VBCPS.
“The experience that the Cavalier staff allowed our students was just amazing,” she said. “We are looking forward to expanding the partnership between VBCPS and Virginia Beach Hotel Association members.”