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Our New Approach to Funding Hospitality Workforce Development

By Elizabeth Cheung, Justin McAuliffe, October 19, 2015

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has a long history of grantmaking in support of education for the hospitality industry. Acknowledging that the hospitality industry has changed, we recently revised our funding guidelines for our Hospitality Program. Learn how our new guidelines align with our overarching mission of improving the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people around the world.

As a tribute to the contributions of our founder to the hotel industry, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has a long history of grantmaking in support of education for the hospitality industry. For many years, we have focused on grooming the next generation of hotel and restaurant managers and executives, most notably through our support of the Conrad N. Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.

Acknowledging that the hospitality industry has changed since funding to the University of Houston first began, we recently revised our funding guidelines for our Hospitality Program, both to update them and to align them more closely with our overarching mission of improving the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people around the world. This process culminated in the approval of new guidelines by our Board of Directors in August 2015. While still recognizing the importance of the Conrad N. Hilton School at the University of Houston in the higher education landscape, the new guidelines also address new areas of need and opportunity.

The guidelines build upon the hospitality industry’s increasing importance to the overall economy and its important role as an employer for many young people. The large number of entry-level jobs, combined with low barriers to entry, and a tendency to promote existing and long-term employees to management-level positions make the hospitality sector ideal for workforce development efforts. Our new guidelines focus especially on creating opportunities for “disconnected youth” (generally young people between the ages of 16-24 who are not connected to the educational system or the workforce) within the hospitality industry, by providing access to initial training programs and then helping them to build life-long careers.

Almost 17 percent of the youth population in the U.S. is considered disconnected. A recent Measure of America report, “Zeroing In on Place and Race,” estimates the current population of disconnected youth at roughly 5.5 million, equivalent to the entire population of the state of Minnesota. While this number is alarmingly high, the national average obscures the fact that some regions experience much higher numbers of disconnected youth than others. Regardless, these numbers represent a lost national economic opportunity as young people struggle to find and retain employment, and then move beyond entry level positions. A single cohort of opportunity youth alone is estimated to generate direct costs to U.S. taxpayers of $1.2 trillion over their lifetime. New Orleans has significant numbers of disconnected youth, as well as a thriving hospitality industry. The demonstrated need, combined with a positive environment of change and the Foundation’s long history of funding in the area—both before and after Hurricane Katrina—made New Orleans a natural fit for our new local funding focus. Our work in New Orleans will focus on increasing the capacity of local service providers, aligning workforce development programs to the needed skillsets of employers, and research and communications on how best to develop programs and serve target populations. Some work at the national and state levels will be conducted in support of the local level work.

We believe this new approach continues to honor the vision of our founder, Conrad N. Hilton, both as a businessman and as a philanthropist, while addressing real needs for the younger members of our communities. We look forward to forming new partnerships with dedicated partners in this sector and to sharing our experiences as the work progresses.

Elizabeth Cheung Twitter

Senior Program Officer, Domestic Programs

Justin McAuliffe Twitter

Program Associate, Special Programs

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