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Industry Education 2024

Casino and hospitality education must adapt to the times

Industry Education 2024

There is a consensus among educators regarding the need for more focused programs in casino and hospitality in 2024. Customized curricula and certificate programs are crucial in meeting the specific needs of casino and hospitality organizations.

By tailoring the programs even more to address the casino/hospitality industry’s requirements and needs, students can acquire the necessary skills and knowledge better and faster to meet the specific demands of the industry.

“Educators in hospitality must be cognizant of the post-pandemic industry trends,” says Joseph Tormey, director of the Hospitality Management program at California State University’s San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus. “Organizations will need to continue to adapt and innovate in light of trends in the fields of wellness, technology and sustainability.”

In 2022, Peter Ricci, director of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at Florida Atlantic University, published an insightful article titled “The Shifting Landscape of Hospitality & Tourism Education.” In the article he stated, regarding the hospitality industry and higher education, “This is a time of awakening, rethinking and a full-scale shifting of the ground beneath our feet—and on all sides: the operations side, the career path side, the pay side and the education side.”

In a recent follow-up with him, he told me, “We are seeing an increase in interest in certificates and certifications. I think many do not understand the difference when they pursue information, and it’s a global move to help them differentiate between the two, see the true learning outcomes, and help employers understand what to ‘expect’ from a graduate of college or for a credit certificate, executive certificate, and so on.”

According to Donald Hoover, associate director of enrollment at the International School of Hospitality, Sports, and Tourism Management at Farleigh Dickinson University, “higher education is at a crossroads.” He notes a trend in matriculating certificate programs.

“Traditional educational pathways particularly for hospitality and gaming programs are leaning toward more immersive, apprentice-style learning concepts,” he says.

“Operators see the value of continuous learning, not only in adapting to the latest best practices and finding new efficiencies in their varied work products, but also in the act of learning, and what it does for employee morale and resilience,” says Sarah Grady, assistant director, Stockton University Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming Hospitality & Tourism School of Business (LIGHT).

As a direct result of the support and encouragement of gaming and hospitality stakeholders, LIGHT has launched a new eight-unit Integrated Casino Resort Operations certificate program for 2024. Its goal is to prepare managerial and supervisory employees to take the next step.

Casino and hospitality programs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have been innovative, often ahead of the curve, with a history of always working closely with industry stakeholders.

According to Dr. Brett Abarbanel, executive director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, the university has been offering short-course programs for quite a while. “The International Center for Gaming Regulation offers a wide variety of specialized programs,” Abarbanel says.

UNLV’s Hospitality College also has the Sands Center, which offers a variety of classes that are largely custom offerings. “They’ve seen an increase in the proportion of inquiries, with nearly all recent requests being on the land-based/online gambling front, compared to the hospitality/tourism,” says Abarbanel. “One of the keynotes here is UNLV’s ability to adapt to specific jurisdictional and cultural needs, and UNLV’s success speaks for itself.”

Since entering higher education in 2010, from an executive position in gaming, I have taught online and in the classroom. In my current role as an adjunct for Wilmington University, I have been part of their new online Certificate in Hospitality Management program. It was developed to meet the needs of current employees and those looking for a career. The program’s focus is a curriculum based on critical knowledge areas and operational soft skills for casino, leadership, and all subset business platforms of the hospitality industry.

The industry today is more data-driven than ever. Accordingly, academic programs in casino hospitality education in 2024 must continue to focus on the industry’s utilization of data analytics and collection through technology-based report programs. This includes educating students in the use of customer relationship management systems, and loyalty programs, as industry stakeholders rely more on this technology to operate efficiently.

As artificial intelligence is already trending within the casino operations platform, as well as the other subsets of the hospitality industry, higher education will need to focus on ways to address it in their curricula in 2024 and beyond.

Another example is esports. I published an article in 2018 on the growing partnership between esports and the casino industry. Obtaining a BS degree in esports gaming management is now a reality. It has become common for educational institutions to search for qualified knowledge-based instructors to teach esports sales, marketing, etc.

In the casino and hospitality industry, strategic programs and teaching methods in related curricula must continue to strike a balance between theoretical knowledge and real-world best practices. This ensures that students are provided with both the foundational understanding and practical skills necessary. As technology continues to play a significant role in casino operations and various sub-business segments of hospitality, it is expected that higher education will also continue to incorporate technological advancements into their instructional platforms and continue collaboration with industry stakeholders to produce more customized learning programs built on adaptability for specialized learning to support broader student interests.

Bob Ambrose is a veteran casino operator, consultant and educator. He formerly was gaming and hospitality professor at the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management at Drexel University, and his experience includes commercial casino development and gaming operations at the executive level.

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