Growing New Talent
One of the biggest challenges facing both attractions and manufacturers in the attractions industry is securing talented and passionate young employees. Reliable pipelines for providing fresh talent are increasing as colleges and universities introduce attractions-focused curricula. Funworld looks at one such school, the University of Cincinnati (UC) in Ohio, which recently created an attractions-focused field of study.
At IAAPA Expo 2018 in Orlando, UC Associate Professor Cindy Damschroder and Professor Dr. Todd Foley presented an educational session named “Recruit Once, Benefit Twice,” which showed the value of internships and cooperative educational programs, or “co-ops,” and how to tap universities as a pipeline for attaining permanent talent. They spoke with representatives from large theme park companies like Universal Parks & Resorts as well as independent family entertainment facilities (FECs) interested in strengthening their pipeline to recruiting college talent.
“After several meetings with industry professionals, UC alumni working in the industry, and many different potential employer partners, we came up with an idea to teach a class that would help students navigate and network in the theme park and attractions industry, learn about the rich history of theme parks worldwide and right here in Cincinnati, and learn how to design their very own theme park attraction,” shares Damschroder.
In the fall of 2021, after a delay due to COVID-19 restrictions, a class titled “Domestic Study Tour: Industry and Experience of Theme Park Design” was first offered at UC. The class allows students to design their own theme park section from the ground up, network with professionals and UC alumni in the amusement industry, and travel to Orlando for visits to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.
“I’m so excited to join an industry that’s booming with creative people and ideas. The idea of creating a place where people lose their worries and replace the problems of the world with fun and enjoyable moments together is really special,” says UC student Andrew Holcroft.
To access young talent, Dr. Foley strongly suggests attractions participate in a good co-op, provide internships, and create mentorship programs. Other ideas to attract and retain talent include encouraging employees to serve as liaisons to their alma maters, organizing networking opportunities, hosting company tours, and not limiting employee searches to students with a 4.0 GPA. He says some of the most brilliant, hardworking, and creative students may have lower GPAs, but more than make up for it with talent and passion.
Foley and Damschroder say they hope to add an international component to their course and take students to some of the most renowned attractions around the world. Plus, they encourage any attraction company that wants to strengthen its talent pipeline or recruitment strategies with universities to reach out to them, stating they can assist with designing an effective and captivating co-op program.