While commerce and accounting graduates may have trouble finding entry jobs in their field, AUT University graduates in hospitality have a number of options open to them in a competitive but healthy industry.
"Hospitality is often the first to go into recession and the first out. It is affected by discretionary spending. When things tighten up, it gets hit first," says David Williamson, AUT University programme leader and senior lecturer at the School of Hospitality and Tourism.
For graduates with a bachelor's degree in international hospitality management (BIHM), there are many paths open to them depending on their majors, which can include accommodation, marketing, event management, food and beverage, and tourism.
"We have excellent relationships with the hotel groups and they often co-ordinate with us regarding transition into management trainee programmes," says Williamson.
Students will often say they want travel to be part of their career. Students who do the BIHM can join graduate programmes with international hotel companies and be working in Sydney or Paris by their mid to late 20s, says the senior lecturer.
"The hotels can provide more structured and highly resourced career paths, with international transfers and better training and development than SMEs," he says.
Those graduates who want to run their own businesses and seek out those opportunities will often work for successful restaurant or cafe operators when they finish their degrees until they gain the skills and knowledge required to launch their own ventures.
Another popular career choice is events management, running events such as the Auckland Lantern Festival and Pasifika festivals. Meanwhile, a number of graduates go on to become airline cabin staff.
Of course, not all students at AUT are there to do a bachelor's degree. Hospitality students can do a wide range of courses from barista to patisserie classes. Also, some former chefs are doing PhDs in hospitality, says Williamson.
A number of well-known chefs had their culinary training at AUT. They include Food Truck chef Michael Van de Elzen, Peter Gordon, Michael Meredith, Simon Gault, Judith Tabron, and Geoff Scott.
When such chefs set up a new restaurant they will often contact AUT lecturers and ask them to send through some of their best people, says Williamson. The lecturer points out there is such a thing as a professional waiter these days in New Zealand, as there has always been in Europe.
"The real professionals are doing very nicely, thank you," he says.
"You go down to the Viaduct to restaurants like Euro or Soul and there are well-established waiting staff who are well paid, making very good money."
One such professional waiter whom Williamson knows is making $70,000 a year in wages and tips working a night shift on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
AUT, meanwhile, remains committed to giving its students practical industry experience. During the final semester of the BIHM, the students do a "co-operative education" option for 15 weeks.
"These periods of work experience can be 'leveraged off' into amazing jobs," says Williamson. "Employers get to try before they buy. It really is a great moment where the rubber meets the road."
Typically, the smart students should already be doing part-time work for restaurants and hotels. Nicole Gomez, who is doing a BIHM majoring in human resources and marketing, will be starting her co-op education next semester with the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour. Gomez already has two part-time jobs, with SkyCity and Sofitel as a food and beverage attendant.
"With the co-op programme you have got to go to the company and pitch yourself," says Gomez. "AUT helps you with this.
"When I first started at AUT, I was quite nervous," she adds. "I had no idea what was to follow. Three years down the track I am so different from what I was, I have learnt so many different skills, I'm more interactive now.
"I am always told that I am good with people, have a keen eye for detail and go the extra mile to help people out. It's all about providing an experience and putting others first."
Gomez is going into hotel management at the end of her degree, specialising in HR and marketing.
"I really love the business side, I love relating to people," she says.
Her plan is to gain experience in hotels working in HR, then move on to another country and expand her knowledge.
"I'm thinking about moving to Australia and then to Europe."