Just three years ago, Rhonda Hager was writing copy for an Orange County advertising agency when she decided she wanted to change careers. But when Hager, 36, tried to get a management job in hotel marketing, she found that hotels were not impressed with her bachelor's degree in English.
She was told by those doing the hiring that she would have to return to school to get a master's degree in business administration (MBA). Usually, that means two years of study.
But Hager found a faster way to make the career change she wanted. In January, 1983, she enrolled in the Managerial Skills Internship Program for Women at UC Irvine.
The program, which is sponsored by the Women's Opportunities Center, can be completed in one year.
And the $1,500 fee is less than the cost of getting an MBA at any of the five universities in Orange County offering the degree. According to spokesmen at those universities, the cost of completing an MBA program in Orange County ranges from a low of $2,766 at UC Irvine to a high of $14,160 at Pepperdine University's Irvine campus.
Spokesmen for UC Irvine, Pepperdine, Cal State Fullerton, Chapman College in Orange and National University in Irvine said the Managerial Skills program is the only certificate program in Orange County that combines course work in management with hands-on internships.
(Although it doesn't have an internship component, a somewhat similar program is offered by Chapman College. Chapman's nine-month certificate program in human resources and development offers courses in personnel, labor law, consulting and how to train employees, a college spokesman said.
(A certificate program requires a person to take enough courses so that he or she is trained in the practical, day-to-day skills needed to perform a certain job. In contrast, a bachelor's or master's degree program provides not only training but also theoretical study, according to Michael Feuers, director of the UCI Extension Program's department of management and business.)
The Managerial Skills program also is unique because, unlike local job placement programs for women, it is geared just for women seeking white collar positions at pre-professional or management levels, said Joan Schwartz, one of the UCI program's administrators.
Managerial Skills graduates such as Hager say the program is meeting its goals. The Anaheim resident noted that without going to business school, she was able to obtain her present position as sales manager for two upscale hotels that will open this spring and specialize in serving business travelers. Hager said she has been busy since last October obtaining commitments from clients to use the hotels, which are in Santa Ana near the John Wayne Airport.
Highly Competitive Market
Noting the highly competitive nature of Orange County's hotel market, Hager said she is kept on her toes developing strategies such as bargain group rates to convince companies, travel agencies and business associations to use her hotels' facilities.
Although the two internships Hager obtained through the Managerial Skills program were not in the hotel field, she said she still gained experience in sales that helped her break into hotel management. Within a month of her graduation in March, 1984, Hager said the program's credentials, along with the skills she had picked up, enabled her to land a job at a Buena Park hotel, first as a sales representative, then as sales manager. In January, 1985, Hager was offered more responsibility in a job at a Fullerton hotel, where she worked until being recruited last October for her present post.
"I love the challenge of keeping a hotel's rooms full," Hager said.
Hager is one of the approximately 15 women annually who have enrolled in the Managerial Skills program since it began in 1981, Schwartz said.
(An orientation meeting for the next Managerial Skills session is to be arranged, and further information is available by calling (714) 856-7131 or (714) 856-7128 )
Also Serves Homemakers
The program serves not only working women who want to change careers or move into management but also homemakers who want to return to work after taking several years off to raise children. Many of these women, usually in their mid-30s or older, feel they don't have the time or patience to pursue a MBA, Schwartz said.
"We have a lot of present or former teachers who want to get into something else," Schwartz said. "But they've been told by prospective employers that they can't be considered for the job they want because they need courses in management, accounting and business writing. So they come to us."
"Some working women without bachelor's degrees," Schwartz continued, "have been told by their employers that because of their outstanding work records they would like to see them move up to supervisory positions, but they need to complete a certificate-granting university program like ours. Credentials do make a difference in the work place when it comes to promotions."