New high school course focuses on hospitality and tourism

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Students hoping to someday open up their own cozy mountain lodge will have a new class at Whitefish High School to help them on the way.

The Whitefish School Board Nov. 14 unanimously approved a request for a new hospitality and tourism class to be taught by Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Amanda Matdies.

The class would cover management and business strategies within the hospitality and tourism industries, topics covered briefly in other courses already being taught.

Students will look at the local, state, and global opportunities in the area as a career and consider the perspective of a guest using the services of the industry, according to Matdies. Modes of transportation — air, train, ship — lodging and hospitality, and career opportunities will be covered.

Matdies said students are extremely interested in what a hospitality and tourism course can offer.

“I have waiting lists in everything I teach,” she said. “It’s because of the relevance — they see something that applies to them.”

The course would follow Montana ProStart standards and align with the hospitality management degree at Montana State University and a hospitality and tourism certificate of applied science at the University of Montana.

Students at Whitefish already compete in Montana ProStart competitions that include a category for hospitality and tourism. Montana ProStart is a national career technical education high school program developed by the National Restaurant Education Foundation.

Trustee Marguerite Kaminski said she liked the idea of the class, but wanted to know if the careers covered in the course would lead students into long-term employment or seasonal work.

“I have a concern about the number of seasonal workers that work in these businesses,” Kaminski said. “Clearly this is a really good class, of course, but it’d be really nice to have more career-oriented employment in Whitefish, and maybe this is something we address with the chamber. I just don’t want someone to take a class and hope they can get a job and it just ends up being a five-month job. It’s really difficult to find those career paths within those institutions.”

Matdies said she wants to provide students with the skills to either join the workforce immediately or pursue their interests in college, adding that about 40 percent of her students are already working in the food industry locally.

“If they want to go further, the opportunities are now at the colleges,” Matdies said. “In our field you can either go the college route and pay the money and achieve high success, or you can do it by skill.”

Trustee Anna Deese said she likes the idea of the course, but wants to make sure it’s not going to be an easy course that just prepares students for entry-level positions.

“It’s not just like we’re basically pre-training them for their after-school jobs,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s rigorous and it isn’t just tailored for that entry level position.”

Matdies said through her courses, students are already well-trained for entry level positions. The new course would prepare them for further positions in different career paths like restaurant, food and beverage services, lodging, travel tourism, recreation, amusement attractions and more, she noted.

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