Tribal Economic Impact 2018 - Page 14

Students prep dinner at District 21 at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Photos by Brent Fuchs Culinary school students find opportunities at casinos, resorts BY MOLLY M. FLEMING THE JOURNAL RECORD TULSA – Tulsa Tech events planning instructor Allison Allen has been in her position for three years. She’s seen her students get jobs at casinos and hotel resorts. She expects the program to continue to grow to meet that demand, especially as Tulsa Tech creates partnerships with the tribes. Other hospitality and culinary school instructors are seeing similar increased requests for their students, not only for casinos but the hospitality industry as a whole. Statewide, the leisure and hospitality sector has seen a 23-percent increase in employment since 2008. As of April, 173,100 people were employed in the industry. In April 2008, only 140,000 people had jobs in the sector. Allen said she is meeting this summer with casino operators to see about creating an internship program with her students. “We see value (in these partnerships) on both sides,” she said. “(The tribes) are recognizing there’s this employee bank. And we’re saying we have these people that want to work. We’re focusing on building those partnerships more.” Tulsa Tech’s culinary program, based in Owasso, works with the Cherokee Nation on the pipeline for its kitchen talent. Annually, there are about 40 students who “The casinos have been a game changer.” Jenean Perryman, Northeast Tech culinary instructor enter the workforce from the program. Allen’s program, as well as the restaurant and lodging program, puts about 40 graduates into the workforce annually. But the jobs aren’t guaranteed with the tribes, despite the annual increase of casino properties with connected hotels. Several culinary/hospitality instructors said tribal preference keeps their students from working at the entertainment resorts. Tribes often give first preference to people of their own nation, and second preference to all Native Americans. At Oklahoma State University, the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has partnered with the university’s Center for Sovereign Nations and hosted a 1 4 T R I B A L E C O N O M I C I M PA C T • J U LY 2 0 1 8 cooking competition, as a way to show the tribal students the job opportunities in the industry. Assistant hospitality school Director David Davis said the Cherokee Nation and the Osage Nation have reached out to the school to help with workforce development. David said the influx of casino-hotel resorts has changed the job opportunities for the school’s students. Some OSU alumni work at the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World Casino and Resort, while other alumni have worked at the Chickasaw Nation’s Artesian Hotel, Casino, and Spa. Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s culinary program has had its share of alumni working in the field as well. Since 2005, the class offerings have expanded to meet the adult student demand, with students going to work for casinos, cruise ships, nursing homes, and restaurants. The culinary program can have up to 64 students annually, ranging from high school age to adults. Culinary Arts Director Michele Sanders said the casino resorts can offer some advantages over other eating establishments, such as late- night hours. Tribal operations also come with full benefits, which often can’t be found at an independently owned restaurant. “It gives us one more place that’s opening up jobs for people with culinary expertise,” she said. “Those students can go in and do what they like in a different venue.”