CIA Career Fair

February 13, 2011

I recently attended a career fair at the Culinary Institute of America on behalf of Delaware North Companies. Camille Jackson of our Human Resources Department attended, as well. She shares her thoughts on the event below.

I had a very pleasant experience visiting the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Buffalo to Albany, so it made my travel much longer. My colleagues Chef Roland Henin and Chef Percy Whatley joined me at the Courtyard Marriott near the CIA.

When we arrived at the CIA, we were greeted by the friendly faces of the CIA staff which included Mary Lou DeSantis and her team. They were gracious and helpful. The facility was neat, clean and well-organized. The career fair items I shipped were waiting for us at our table, along with the television and DVR I requested. The space was a little crowded as the company tables were getting very close together which left little room to move around. It was great to see a large number of companies participating in the career fair.

Throughout the fair, the CIA provided endless beverages and flavorful food that was prepared by the students. It was a beautiful spread. The career fair had a continuous flow of students who were well-prepared and focused on their mission to secure an internship/externship. Throughout my years of participating in career fairs, students/participants typically are interested in company giveaways as opposed to talking to recruiters. With the CIA students, they were not interested in giveaways. They were much more interested in company information, internship/employment opportunities and Chef Roland. Many of the students were seeking externships, rather than internships and about 85 percent of the students that stopped at our table were baking/pastry students. Unfortunately, Delaware North does not have many baking/pastry internships or externships. We also met with quite a few alumni and soon-to-graduate candidates who were seeking regular employment. In speaking with students, I assessed that their salary expectations were not aligned with entry-level opportunities for which they qualify.  One recently graduated alumnus is seeking a salary of $60,000 minimum. Another student who is graduating in March 2011 is seeking $35,000, minimum – with no work experience and no management/supervisory experience. I’m not sure the CIA is setting their salary expectation or if they feel overwhelmed with their up-and-coming student loan bills.

The CIA is a beautiful campus. I toured the campus twice and had two totally different experiences. My second tour was hosted by a student named Jose. Jose was very professional, elaborated extensively on the history of the campus, curriculum, instructors, restaurants and everything about the CIA. I was very impressed. My colleagues and I had dinner at the Italian restaurant on campus. The food was magnificent, the service was stellar and the atmosphere was bravura.

I was inspired by the students’ tenacity in their education, as well as the facility in which they learn. Environment is key, and I think that adds value to a student’s learning experience. I’ve attended many college career fairs throughout my 17-year career in human resources. The CIA career fair is by far one of the best I’ve attended in terms of organization, professionalism, preparedness of students and a state-of-the-art learning facility.