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Spotlight on Hospitality: Local academic institutions train a new generation of hospitality professionals

August 8, 2022
Abigail Castillo pouring brut for a wedding ceremony at Folktale's Rose Vineyard

Abigail Castillo was studying sustainable hospitality management at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) when she volunteered at a wine festival on the Colton Hall lawn. The experience introduced an enticing career path. 

"I got a quick introduction and then I spent the whole day pouring wine and talking to people. I just fell in love," she says.

Castillo, who grew up in Salinas and interned at Disneyland Resort before graduating from CSUMB in 2019, now coordinates events at Folktale Winery & Vineyard. She and fellow CSUMB hospitality graduate Monika Jackson also launched their own event planning business in January.

“This industry gives me amazing experiences that I would not have in any other job. I just met Emeril Lagasse, for example,” says Castillo. “Some of my friends in other college programs felt a little lost or forgotten, but that was definitely not my experience at CSUMB. Our faculty and professors took it upon themselves to make calls and introductions. They were very encouraging, and it felt like they took our success personally.”

Monterey County’s hospitality industry employs more than 21,600 hardworking individuals like Castillo. And like CSUMB, Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) also equips students for those careers.

MPC offers both associate degree programs and certificates in fields like sustainable culinary arts, food and beverage management, and baking and pastry arts. A new two-plus-two partnership gives students a direct path from MPC to CSUMB’s four-year hospitality degree. At all levels, MPC students can access tourism internships, networking and interviews.

Whether they’re building skills for an existing career or following a longer-term educational path, students find countless opportunities.

“The pandemic really impacted local hospitality. But now, visitors are coming back, restaurants are full, and you see help wanted signs everywhere. As a local community college, we feel it’s very important to train students for these open positions and professional opportunities,” says Judy Cutting, MPC dean of instruction in career education and workforce development.

At Pacific Grove High School, students can jump-start their careers through the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s ProStart program. The four-year career and technical education (CTE) program consists of classroom lessons, including some that earn college credit, plus field trips, state- and national-level culinary competitions, and hands-on experience working at major events through the student-run Catering Corps business. 

Imogen Erickson, Pacific Grove High culinary arts instructor and CTE department chair, says lessons combine elements of math, science, culture and geography. As students gain practical job skills, they also learn about teamwork, confidence, resume writing and interviewing.

“This PG High program is a home away from home for students. It's their comfort zone and everybody feels welcome,” Erickson says. “This doesn’t get students ready for just one type of career. We're teaching important life skills that can be transferred to any business.”

The Monterey County Hospitality Association (MCHA) launched a new website this summer that highlights hospitality career pathways, scholarships, and resources for students and job seekers. Learn more at

The Monterey County Hospitality Association ( is the trade association serving the local tourism industry with advocacy, education and employee recognition programs. For more information, visit or contact Kristin Horton at 


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