As the local hospitality industry continues to grow, Merced College is once again helping to prepare students for great jobs in hotels, restaurants and more.

From customer service and conflict resolution to crafting cocktails, local students can learn all the skills they need through Merced College’s Hospitality Career Academy. The free, 12-week program kicks off with an event at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Mainzer in downtown Merced.

Spaces are still available for the third cohort of the academy, a partnership between Merced College, El Capitan Hotel and Mainzer that first launched in Fall 2021. In completing the program, students receive college credits in addition to practical training and sage advice from longtime industry leaders. Classes will begin Sept. 12, with a graduation ceremony planned for Dec. 12.

In its third installment, the Hospitality Career Academy will once again offer the crowd-favorite mixology workshop, with Billy Pedrozo of Bella Luna introducing students to the art of crafting cocktails. Staff from El Capitan and Mainzer will provide panel discussions, property tours, presentations on guest services, and customer service scenarios, and in a new addition to the academy, UC Merced Executive Chef Mitch Vanagten will present on the business of catering.

“The Hospitality Career Academy provides a unique opportunity for participants to learn about themselves and how to be excellent employees and coworkers,” said Caroline Dawson, Dean of Instruction. “This program is leading students to better job performance, greater job satisfaction, and a clear career advantage.”

Students will receive 48 total hours of training on topics including communication, customer service, team building, conflict management, unconscious bias, and attitude in the workplace, plus 3 units of college credit for completing the academy.

Near the end of the program, students will participate in a “Hospitality Job Fair” in which they can meet with local employers to learn about job opportunities, ask questions and apply for jobs. Several graduates from the first two cohorts of the academy secured employment with local hospitality employers.

Completing the academy also prepares students well for ongoing education, such as through enrollment in Merced College’s culinary management program.

“For anyone considering jobs in the hospitality sector, which is growing rapidly in the Merced area, this academy is an ideal step toward that goal,” Professor Jonae Pistoresi said. “Graduates from this program will be better prepared for those jobs, better prepared for their job interviews, and better prepared to handle delicate situations in every aspect of their lives. You will learn and grow in unexpected ways through this academy.”

For information or to apply for the Hospitality Career Academy, contact Dorota Mimms at or (209) 384-6223.

Media Contact: James Leonard,, 209-681-1061