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Visitor industry supports Maui’s future business leaders

By Staff | Jan 27, 2011

Nancy Chaplick (right) and Debbie Tamayo of Oceanic Time Warner Cable discuss job opportunities with Pumehana Ladera of Baldwin High School.

WAILUKU — The Academy of Hospitality & Tourism held its annual AOHT Student Conference at the University of Hawaii-Maui College on Friday, Jan. 14.

More than 200 attendees took part in the conference, including students, educators, visitor industry representatives, members of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association and local leaders.

Since AOHT’s inception in the early 1990s with a one-time grant from the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, the program has proven to be a successful public-private partnership.

The seed that was first planted at Lahainaluna High School now includes programs at Maui High and Baldwin High School.

This extraordinary “schools within schools” concept emphasizes academic excellence while exposing students to the “real world.”

AOHT’s primary goal is to prepare students for post-secondary education and cultivate workforce development in one of the world’s largest service industries.

This innovative program administered by the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association (MHLA) provides students with valuable exposure to the industry via internships, job shadowing, research and event planning, service projects, job site visits, university visits and travel.

Today, the AOHT program on Maui includes over 200 students.

The day-long student conference included award winning poet/storyteller Kealoha as keynote speaker. Kealoha, a local-boy who graduated from MIT with honors in nuclear physics, enthralled students with his motivational speech on finding the right career.

Showcasing the importance and relevance of our host culture to tourism in Hawaii, the program also included a lesson on Mass Travel in Hawaii by the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.

In addition, recognizing agriculture as integral to the history of Hawaii, Lani and Pomai Weigert of the Hawaii AgriTourism Association presented a session on how they have successfully integrated agriculture into the visitor industry.

Students also had the opportunity to visit with various visitor industry businesses during the Career Fair/Mock Interview session. Students were required to provide a resume and job application for the “mock interview” portion, where industry leaders provided valuable feedback to each student.

During lunch, Maui High School’s academy shared their knowledge of the industry to attendees.

The event capped off with a lively “Jeopardy, Visitor Industry Style” competition that included topics presented to the students throughout the day.

“The AOHT program offers students a unique opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of the visitor industry. Many of these students continue on to post-secondary education with a head-start in selecting their field of study,” said Carol Reimann, co-chair of the AOHT and executive director for the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association.

“We are pleased to offer such a great program to high school students — our future business leaders — and contribute to our workforce development.”

The program is supported by funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the county Office of Economic Development and the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association. For information, contact MHLA at 244-8625.