TORONTO — Several months after the “Be-Our-Guest” co-op program was launched to Toronto’s high-school students by a group of enterprising hoteliers, the program’s first graduates were fêted earlier this week at George Brown College.
The initiative — developed specifically for high-school students as a means for them to explore the world of hospitality and tourism — represents a unique departure for the industry. “Certainly, one of the biggest challenges in our industry today is the limited talent pool. Historically, our industry never addressed and spoke of high-school students,” explained Hani Roustom, GM of The Hazelton Hotel. “This is why a group of leaders — industry colleagues and educators — got together to take action and the Be-Our-Guest program was born to simply introduce our up-and-coming generation of students to the wonderful and exciting world of hospitality and tourism.”
Late last year, a coalition of five hotel partners (The Hazelton Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, the InterContinental Toronto Centre and Accor) teamed up with George Brown College, the Ontario Hotel & Restaurant Association (ORHMA) and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to launch the program. During the nine-month co-op placement, 26 students from grades 11 and 12 worked in various departments of those five hotels.
Through the program, student participant Ryan Cho from the Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute — who has wanted to be a chef since he was seven years old — gained a first-hand understanding of the kitchen by working under the guidance of the executive chef of The Hazelton’s One Restaurant. “When my teacher and I were looking for a new core placement, she recommended me to the Be-Our-Guest program. She told me that these high-end hotels were offering high-class opportunities to high-school students like myself,” explains Cho. “At first, I didn’t want to attend, thinking I could never make it. But I gave it a shot and I could not believe I got called in.”
For students like Cho, the co-op provided valuable insight into the hotel world, exposing them to the benefits of working in a hotel at a young age. As Roustom says, “The hospitality and tourism industry offers limitless and very exciting career options and many paths…There are few industries in the world that allow you to travel the world over. You can see, discover, learn, grow, have fun, make money and still build a progressive career at every step of the way.”