Pebble Beach makes professionals of Hospitality students

While most San José State University students were still enjoying their winter break, a group of 34 students have been involved in intense training in preparation for a week-long internship at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February. To watch a video of the training, click SJSU SEMT 2014 Training.

From Jan 8-11, 30 students  and four student leaders attended all-day training where they learned the ins and outs of how to offer premiere service to elite clients, including the celebrities, business executives and others who attend the annual golf tournament. The students have three more all-day Saturday training sessions. Then they will be required to stay near Pebble Beach from Feb. 3-9, where they will work 12 hours day in concessions, hospitality tents called chalets and skyboxes along the course during the tournament.

Kristen Ridout, who participated in the event last year and is serving as the student coordinator this year, said the hardest part for her was knowing how to be professional, “not just acting professional, but even learning what language to use and body language.”

She said she was a little intimidated at first working in a skybox along the 18-hole course with corporate clients, noting that she met more than one CEO.

“It was a little intimidating,” she said. “I was young.”

Since 2006, the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Hospitality and Tourism Management program has partnered with the premiere Central Coast resort to create a Special Event Management Team made up of students such as Ridout. This year’s team includes mainly Hospitality and Tourism Management students, but also some kinesiology and communications students. The students serve as event managers during the event.

This year, the students used iPads purchased with a grant from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Dean’s Office that streamlined the training process. In the past, Pebble Beach staff members photocopied training manuals of up to 900 pages for 40 people. This year the manuals are in a digital format that can be accessed on the iPads.

In addition to the power point presentations by nearly a dozen Pebble Beach staff members on everything from food safety to human resources to hospitality, Rich Larson, an SJSU professor, used each day to teach the students how important details are to event management. Each day the students met in the Boccardo Business Center the students set up the linens, table skirts and created center pieces, with a different look each day. Larson pointed to the blinds in one room and said the attention to detail goes as far as making sure the blinds were all adjusted to the same angle.

Each year, managers from Pebble Beach are actively involved in the training sessions and they select the students for the team. This year, 72 students applied to be part of the program. From that pool, Beat Giger, the director of special events and corporate chef at Pebble Beach Resorts, said he and his staff aimed to select the students who would be the best fit for the event.

“We are looking for a certain personality,” he said. “They have to be energetic and outgoing. They will be working with a lot of older people who have been out there a long time. We need to pump them up.”

Giger described the partnership as a “win-win-win.”

“We would not be able to find locally 30 managers who would be willing to go through the training,” he said, of the 56 hours of training the students undergo.

The students who intern at the winter golf tournament often have the opportunity to return to Pebble Beach to work at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival as well as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Giger said the best students are often hired full-time when they graduate from SJSU, noting that about 15 current employees participated in the program.

Rich Larson, an SJSU professor, said many students who have completed the program find listing it on their resume gives them a leg up in job searches. While the training and the week at the golf tournament are intense, he said most students find it to be rewarding.

“They come in nervous and they leave confident,” he said of the training. “They get to the tournament and they are nervous again, but they leave confident.”

He noted other former students who graduated and have gone on to work with the 49ers football team, the A’s baseball team and Aramark.

“It’s our good fortune to be in proximity to such a well-known resort and golf course,” Larson said.

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