One of the great things about our industry is that about half the jobs are entry-level jobs that provide young or transitioning employees an opportunity to get started on a career path. Many employees find they enjoy the industry and that the industry provides upward mobility. For our hospitality education partners the challenge is that many workers are choosing to bypass the educational path into the industry. It was good to catch up with Dr. Lisa Benson, Lane Community College hospitality management instructor, and gain additional insight into the educational side of the industry.  Lisa has been teaching at LCC since 2008. 

Hospitality jobs in Lane County topped 11,000 in 2018 and it doesn’t appear the growth in our sector will slow anytime soon. Job openings abound, but our partners are having a difficult time filling these jobs. Training and education in the industry are key factors. Lisa discussed various opportunities students have to focus on the culinary side of our industry or on the hospitality management side. From one-year certificate programs to two-year Associate's Degree programs, LCC offers a hands-on curriculum that graduates students into jobs.

 The big challenge is getting more students into the program. While the number of students, in Lisa’s words, is “comfortable,” the college would have no problem serving more and in fact, is actively recruiting through high school career days.  It was interesting to learn that students interested in moving onto a four-year hotel management program would need to head across the pass to Bend to attend Oregon State University’s program, the closest option, or head out of state to Washington or California.

LCC’s culinary and hospitality programs are only available at the main Eugene campus, not at their satellite campuses elsewhere in Lane County.  The college also works with area high schools (South Eugene, North Eugene, Sheldon & Willamette) to offer students opportunities to take classes that will move them toward their Associate’s degree through LCC. 

Lisa has a strong sustainability focus, which she developed while teaching in Vermont and Colorado and has incorporated at LCC, noting, “we have a required course for all Culinary Arts and Hotel/Restaurant/Tourism Management students called ‘Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry’ and the core content of this course is energy efficiency, waste reduction, water-saving techniques for kitchens, and local/seasonal food.  Each of these areas we put into practice in our kitchen.” This was exciting to hear and certainly fits well with area efforts to reduce food waste, something we discussed with Lane County’s Angie Marzano earlier this year.

Graduate Eugene Hotel by Melanie Griffin
Graduate Eugene Hotel by Melanie Griffin

We finished our conversation with a look at challenges. Lisa noted that the industry can help overcome the challenge of lagging student enrollment by encouraging workers to take career advancement courses. A study done by CHART, the council of hotel and restaurant training, found that 86% of hospitality businesses offer less than 10 hours of ongoing training to their new staff. Additionally, according to the American analytics and advisory business, Gallup, 87% of millennials say training and development are crucial to a job. People in the job market and working in frontline positions are interested in jobs that will become stepping-stones for them throughout their lives or that offer ongoing training and development. Millennials who feel they work at a great workplace are 25 times more likely to plan a long-term future there.

The economy is currently strong and employment is high, but that doesn’t mean that current employees couldn’t take a class now and then in an effort to gain additional skills. Maybe a “front of the house” employee would like to learn more about “back of the house” operations? 

A second challenge is ensuring the programs offered by the college are maintained.  The economy will see another downturn eventually and when affected employees look for new career paths it will be important that our local community college has what the industry needs.  LCC is currently evaluating a proposal to eliminate the two-year culinary program and replace it with a one-year certificate program. Students who attain a one-year certificate would then need to transfer to another community college to complete their Associate's Degree. If you feel it’s important the culinary program continues to offer a two-year Associates degree, please contact Paul Jarrell at

For more information about LCC’s hospitality programs, contact Dr. Lisa Benson at

Tourism Around Lane County Video