From co-op student to co-op employer | Vancouver Island University

As Customer Service Manager at Pacific Shores Resort & Spa At Nanoose Bay, Omar Almolla’s duties vary widely and involve many aspects to help ensure the continued smooth operation of the station.

From scheduling shifts and security to overseeing resort amenities and departmental goals, it’s clear that no two workdays are alike.

Omar is a 2019 graduate of VIU’s Hotel Management Program. And while at VIU, he worked as a co-op student under the (VIWIL) program, and rose through the ranks after starting as a guest services agent.

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

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

Tell us about your current role at Pacific Shores Resort

As Client Services Manager, I am responsible for managing client operations and the front office. I oversee lobby operations and hotel amenities and oversee staff schedules and shifts, recruitment, training and development of the guest service team. In a boutique hotel like ours, the Guest Services Manager may take on a few additional responsibilities due to the size of the management team. For example, in my case, safety falls under my management, I am also the events manager, and the manager of the health and safety committee.

I landed this job after completing my co-op as part of my degree at VIU. I have held 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 coops abroad in Saudi Arabia and the third here in Canada. I could see my skills and knowledge put to the test. The co-op program has helped me both as a student and as 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-assessments and our managers received an assessment mid-semester, as well as a final assessment at the end. These reviews helped me a lot as it allowed me and the manager to discuss what I am good at, what I need to work more on and how to do it. Our teachers would help us find jobs and open new paths for us. We also had CareerVIUwhich was a great way for students to find jobs and employers to find students.

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

When I hire a co-op student, I hire someone who is interested in the industry, studying it in school and hoping to progress in it. Usually employers can benefit from the student’s energy, new ideas and skills. Students feel the need to prove themselves and, in my experience, tend to be hard-working, reliable, and quick learners. Not to mention that they have specific requirements to follow to make their co-op successful, so they are usually invested.

It also gives me the chance to develop myself. In these cases, I mentor a student, try to teach him as much as possible, work on his weaknesses and push him forward. I can honestly say that there is nothing more enjoyable than knowing that you have had a positive effect on someone’s life, education, career, or experience.

From the students’ point of view, they have the chance to be individually mentored by a hospitality professional, to get advice that the manager has learned throughout their experience and to gain relevant experience in the industry while earning school credits. They have the chance to develop practical skills in the industry and learn how to market themselves to future employers. Most importantly, students will have the chance to create connections, relationships and a professional reference in the field!