Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2014

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Looking in on: Higher Education:

Student’s plan illustrates quirk in local job market

She may spend years working on Strip before using degree

Felicia Hersh, a junior at UNLV and an aspiring museum curator, says she will probably pursue a master’s degree in history after she finishes her undergraduate studies.

But before she goes to graduate school, she says, she might take a few years off to work.

The honors student doubles as a spa receptionist for a Strip hotel and says she loves her job so much that she can see herself making it a full-time thing.

“Sometimes it scares me because I really, really like the company and I could do a lot in terms of traveling with it, at least while I’m young and single, and seeing the world,” Hersh said. “So sometimes I get scared that I’ll get sucked into it and not use my history degree.”

The jobs available in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas present a challenge to local officials who would like to see the area diversify its economy.

“I know cocktail waitresses that literally have degrees,” said state Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, who was a waitress on the Strip for many years.

Las Vegas’ leaders need to find a way to ensure that important jobs outside the hospitality industry pay enough to compete with what hotel and casino operators offer, she said.

“Clark County can’t wait two years for more teachers,” Carlton said. “We can’t wait longer for some of these professionals to come in. We need to be able to offer them a comparable living wage so that they can take the jobs that we value.”

•••

Academics spend too much time up in their ivory tower. At least that’s what state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, a professor at UNLV, thinks.

Faculty members who complain in private about poor funding for the System of Higher Education seemingly make little effort to make their voices heard in Carson City.

So on Friday, at a College of Southern Nevada panel discussion on budget cuts, Titus implored her colleagues in higher education to step up and lobby for more funding.

CSN receives less money per student than any other community college in the state. A 4.5 percent budget cut recently implemented forced the college to cut 40 percent of its remaining operating budgets this year.

“We, CSN, are in a hole — a real hole,” Patty Charlton Dayar, vice president of finance and budget at the college, said at the forum.

And if Titus is right, members of the CSN community may be the ones who will have to start digging themselves out of that hole.

•••

MGM Mirage is tapping Southern Nevada’s higher education institutions for help in staffing its more than $8 billion CityCenter development, scheduled to open in 2009.

How the company and schools will collaborate on filling some of the 12,000 jobs CityCenter will create has yet to be decided.

“All that we can really say at this point is that the Career Services Center at UNLV’s Hotel College is currently in discussions with MGM about helping them recruit UNLV students for the CityCenter project,” UNLV spokesman Gian Galassi said in an e-mail. “And, because talks are ongoing, it would be premature to discuss specific details of those efforts, but a partnership would likely include various recruitment components, including internships, job placements, etc.”

Besides assisting in recruitment, local schools could help potential employees develop skills that would help on the job. CSN and UNLV have well-respected gaming and hospitality programs.

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said potential partnerships would benefit schools by giving students and alumni an opportunity to explore careers in the hospitality industry.

Not all CityCenter jobs will be in customer service. The development will also seek employees in fields such as technology and accounting.

If CSN and MGM Mirage strike a deal, it won’t be the first time the college has partnered with a major casino company.

In 2006 a federally funded CSN program to train potential workers for the opening of Station Casinos’ Red Rock Resort was criticized after only a small percentage of the participants received jobs. Of 263 job seekers trained, 23 got jobs at Red Rock and 40 at other Las Vegas hotel properties, according to CSN.

The program also involved helping Station develop curriculum for guest-services training that was provided to 13,000 company employees.

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