Partnering with Academia Offers Benefits to the Attractions Industry
Colleges and universities are more than just recruiting sources for summer workers: They can offer amusement parks and attractions a wide range of engineering, managerial, and product-related benefits when the two sides work together. “Partnering with Academia: Accomplish Your Mission and Protect Your Future” outlined examples of these benefits.
Danielle Heffernan, manager of cooperative learning partnerships at Cedar Point, detailed her company’s partnership with Bowling Green State University in offering a Bachelor of Science degree in resort and attraction management. According to Heffernan, the classroom/internship mix of the program serves the interests of both partners.
“Bowling Green recognized the need for students to be able to not only learn about the academic side, but be able to apply it in real time and real life,” she said. “Cedar Fair (owner and operator of Cedar Point) recognized the need to develop our future leaders, our future innovators, [and] our future visionaries for our parks to create our own pipeline.”
Dr. Kathryn Woodcock, Ryerson University professor of human factors engineering and director of its THRILL (Tools for Holistic Ride Inspection Learning and Leadership) Lab, spoke about the THRILL Lab’s role in exposing Ryerson engineering students to amusement park rides and attractions, leading to many of them joining IAAPA member companies after graduation.
“Students learn the anatomy and physiology of rides when they’re put the on the midway,” Woodcock explained. “They get to talk to the mechanics and the inspectors, so if they become ride designers in the future, they know what will make people happy and what will piss them off.”
The Netherlands’ Vekoma Rides Manufacturing B.V. works closely with Dutch universities to engage their students in the amusement park industry, both in class and through tours of Vekoma’s facilities. The result: Student ideas have contributed to new Vekoma products such as the company’s Sports Fun Center sports-themed tented FECs. (Vekoma inspires student participation through competitions offering prizes for their work.) “It is very interesting to work with students,” said Peter van Bilsen, Vekoma’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. “You are the future.”
The bottom line: By working with academia today, amusement parks and attractions can help to educate and inspire the engineers and managers they will need in the future. Being present on campus also alerts the best and brightest students about the many engaging and exciting career options the industry has to offer.