Sometimes hospitality can take you places. In Luis Vazquez’s case, his hospitality skills have taken him halfway around the world.
A member of SkillsUSA since his junior year of high school, Vazquez had honed his abilities in restaurant services competitions around the state and the country. Building on the things he learned in his high school and Collin College’s hospitality program, and the training offered by SkillsUSA, he rose through those competitions to earn a spot at the biennial WorldSkills Competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Vazquez competed against 34 international restaurant service winners over four days, employing his skills in fine dining service, banquet service, bar service and other skill areas. All the while, he had to explain what he was doing and why.
“It was almost like a cooking show-style competition, where you had to talk about what you were doing, create stories with them and create that interaction and that experience,” Vazquez said. “It was an awesome learning opportunity. It was beyond belief.”
Although he did not finish very high in the competition, his appearance there created another opportunity for him. It earned him the chance to compete in another international competition in Russia, sponsored by the Russian Department of Education.
Vazquez was one of hundreds of people in Sao Paulo representing 75 countries at the WorldSkills competition. The participants competed in about 100 skill areas promoted by SkillsUSA and WorldSkills to encourage vocational education and training.
Focused on leadership and job development, SkillsUSA offers teaching resources and training workshops, as well as résumé builders and personality profiles to help determine the student’s level of ability in a number of areas.
“A lot of what they focus on is helping you professionally in trade labor skills,” Vazquez said. “That can mean real-world experience in industries like restaurant services, culinary arts, graphic design, carpentry, firefighting, literally anything you can think of that is a hands-on industry.”
SkillsUSA reinforces that training and development by hosting state and national competitions in those industries, simulating real-world scenarios that you would encounter at an actual job. Vazquez said that SkillsUSA not only makes people more hirable in the industry of their choice, but he believes it prepares the contestants for real-life obstacles that they might meet once they join the workforce.
Vazquez was a driving force in starting a SkillsUSA student organization at Collin College last year. The group could not make its scheduling work for this spring, but some officers hope it will be revitalized in the fall. Students who are interested should check out the club’s page on OrgSync.
Vazquez will graduate this spring with an associate of applied science degree in hotel and restaurant management, but he still believes SkillsUSA could be a boon for the college.
“After receiving so much from this club, I believed it was something Collin could benefit from,” Vazquez said. “I think it could be something awesome for the students.”
As for his future, Vazquez is already working in the hospitality industry at Sheraton McKinney and he feels like he has benefited from his time with SkillsUSA.
“I get to use all of the skills I have learned in the things I do every day,” he said.