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Hands-On Hospitality Training for Students & Refugees

Knowledgeable students and refugees can help make a dent in the industry’s labor shortage.

By Beth Buehler

In a time when labor shortages persist, the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver (DU) is doing its part to send trained students and refugees out into the world—which is great news for the meetings and events industry. Here’s a look at the Ready for American Hospitality (RAH) program, Public Good Gala, and annual DU Vin Festival, all included in the hands-on hospitality training for students and refugees at the Fritz Knoebel School.

Ready for American Hospitality

RAH is a partnership effort with the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s African Community Center, a refugee resettlement agency. Refugee students are paired with students enrolled in the Fritz Knoebel School’s Human Capital Management course.

The DU and refugee students establish mentor/protégé relationships, meeting twice per week. This allows RAH students to gain knowledge, skills, and experience working in the food-service industry while gaining a better understanding of work culture and expectations in the United States. Ultimately, this leads to employment opportunities and continued nurturing throughout the integration process as mentors are often among protégés’ first American friends. The employment rate after RAH graduation is 86%.

hands-on hospitality training at DU Public Good Gala Feb. 23, 2023
Behind-the-scenes action for the Public Good Gala CREDIT Lorne Fultonberg

Planning & Executing Events

As part of the hands-on hospitality training, students plan the annual Public Good Gala, a fine-dining event that was held on Feb. 23, with RAH students serving as the employee pool. Mentors guide their protégés through the application, selection, training, and orientation process. Chef Zoe Adjonyoh, founder of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, worked with the team to prepare a five-course prix fixe menu for the event.

hands-on hospitality training for Public Good Gala on Feb. 23, 2023
Guest chef Zoe Adjonyoh assisting a student with prep for the 2023 Public Good Gala CREDIT Lorne Fultonberg

A little later in the semester, the annual DU Vin Festival provides upper-level DU students the opportunity to showcase event management skills gained over the past four years at Fritz Knoebel School, which is part of the Daniels College of Business. Senior students plan, execute, and coordinate all aspects of the event, including the recruitment and training of RAH students and other volunteers to work the event.

DU Vin Festival includes a five-course food and wine pairing dinner on May 11 and a grand tasting on May 13, all with the guidance of professionals in the food, wine, and hospitality industries. This year’s guest chef for the dinner is Fariyal Abdulahi, who was born and raised in Ethiopia and is the chef de cuisine at Hav & Mar in New York City.