The IHL program graduates its first round of students

On December 12, the Dan Lincoln Institute for Hospitality Leadership (IHL) graduated its first class of students trained for diverse careers in hospitality and tourism during a ceremony at Dater High School.

“The origin of it came from a need of diverse hospitality leaders outside of what is perceived as typical hospitality roles, which are cooking and cleaning and front desks of hotels,” says Jason Dunn, executive director of IHL and vice president of multicultural sales and community development at the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

“What we wanted to do was expose students and get them ready for careers that typically are not seen in the forefront of hospitality,” he continues.

“That’s marketing, that’s accounting, that’s things that I do with diversity, there’s catering, you can own a hotel, you can own a club, you can own a restaurant,” he says. “There’s all kinds of things in gaming — the Reds and the Bengals, etcetera — there’s all kinds of things that are inclusive in hospitality.”

The CVB led the way in creating the model, and they partnered with the Cincinnati Music Festival (CMF) to host Party With a Purpose on the Thursday night of the festival, with $7 of all ticket sales going to IHL.

They also met with Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Recreation Center, which has a federal grant that will fund internships for four of the graduates.

Dater already has a program that helps kids who want to be on a culinary tract, but they also wanted to create a separate curriculum that exposes students to other careers in hospitality.

“So it’s a perfect marriage,” says Dunn.

The IHL classes ran twice a week during the school day starting in October, and provided 15 students with hands-on training to introduce them to the more than 80,000 career opportunities within the region’s hospitality industry.

“The kids get an opportunity to be exposed to … experiential learning, trips where they go to the hotel and they see every aspect of it, from the engineering side, to marketing, to sales, to answering the phones, planning for conventions,” says Dunn.

Students also got to tour places like Great American Ball Park and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center where they learned what employees do at all levels of tourism and hospitality.

Thanks to the three-year partnership with CMF — along with other local hospitality leaders and organizations — the first graduates received nationally recognized certificates, coats, and pins, and four students will participate in internships from January to May 2019.

That 10-week program, which includes jobs at the Duke Energy Convention Center, Sweet Petit Desserts, 3CDC, and the Hilton Netherlands Plaza, will help create a career path to get into the industry, says Dunn.

“It was just a wonderful feeling to see and hear them be exposed to things that they ordinarily would not have done,” says Dunn. “We’re very excited about that.”

“Just to see the kids faces when people were supporting them,” he continues, “just to see the hospitality community come and support them, I think, was humbling. You never know how much impact you make until you see people’s faces and their responses to what you do, and I think for us, it was a slam dunk.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.