From co-op student to co-op employer

March 4, 2022

VIU Hospitality Management grad Omar Almolla shares his story

As the guest services manager at Pacific Shores Resort & Spa in Nanoose Bay, Omar Almolla’s duties vary widely and involve numerous aspects to help ensure the continued smooth operation of the resort.

From shift scheduling to security, overseeing resort amenities to departmental objectives, it’s a given that no two days on the job are the same.

Omar is a 2019 graduate of VIU’s Hospitality Management program. And during his time at VIU, he benefitted from several  co-op opportunities, one of which was at his current workplace, where he rose through the ranks after starting as a guest services agent.

“I love my job and love to challenge myself, so I started asking for more and more responsibility to both learn and prove myself at the same time,” he says.

This enthusiasm for his work ultimately paid off in the form of a promotion to his current position, through which he now hires co-op students like he once was. We caught up with him recently to find out more about what his position entails, his own experience as a co-op student and the benefits of the co-op program for both students and employers.

Tell us about your current role at Pacific Shores Resort.

As the Guest Services Manager, I am responsible for managing guest and front office operations. I oversee lobby operations and hotel amenities and monitor staff scheduling and shifts, recruitment, training, and development of the Guest Service team. In a boutique resort like ours the Guest Services Manager might handle a few more responsibilities due to the size of the management team. For example, in my case, security falls under my management, I am also the events manager, and the health and safety committee manager.

I landed this job after finishing my co-op as part of my degree at VIU. I’ve been in this position since April 2019.

Tell us about your experience as a co-op student.

I was a student between 2015 and 2019. I did my first two co-ops abroad in Saudi Arabia and the third here in Canada. I got to see my skills and knowledge put to the test. The co-op program helped me both as a student and an employer. As a student, it helped me get a foot in the door, learn more and gain experience.

Throughout the co-op, we were assigned self-reviews and our managers were assigned a mid-semester review, as well as a final review at the end. These reviews helped a lot as they allowed me and the manager to discuss what I’m good at, what I need to work on more, and how to do that. Our professors would help us find jobs and open new paths for us. We also had CareerVIU, which was a great way for students to find jobs and employers to find students. 

Now that you’re an employer, what are the benefits to hiring co-op students?

When hiring a co-op student, I’m hiring someone who is interested in the industry, is studying it at school and hoping to advance within. Usually, employers can benefit from the student’s energy, fresh ideas and skills. Students feel the need to prove themselves and from my experience tend to work hard, are reliable and learn quickly. Not to mention they have specific requirements they need to follow to pass their co-op, so they are usually invested.

It also gives me the chance to develop as well. In these cases, I’m mentoring a student, trying to teach them as much as possible, working on their weaknesses and pushing them forward. I can honestly say there is nothing more pleasurable than knowing you had a positive effect on someone’s life, education, career or experience.

From the students’ perspective, they are getting the chance to be mentored one-on-one by a hospitality professional, get some tips that the manager has learned throughout their experience, and gain relevant industry experience while getting school credit for it. They get the chance to develop practical industry skills and learn how to market themselves to future employers. Most importantly the students will get a chance to build connections, relationships and a professional reference in the field! 

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