Okanagan College and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association have collaborated on a new 26 week program (Okanagan College/Contributed)

Okanagan College and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association have collaborated on a new 26 week program (Okanagan College/Contributed)

Reducing hospitality and tourism work shortages the goal in Okanagan College partnership

While the initial program has started, it will be offered three more times over the next two years

A new partnership in the Okanagan is hoping to reduce staff shortages in the hospitality and tourism workforce.

Like every business and sector, the last few years have been very difficult and this includes the hospitality and tourism sector. The mix of an aging workforce along with declining youth workers has created challenges.

But to try and reduce these shortages, Okanagan College (OC) and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) have partnered to design a new program.

Having begun this fall, the first group of students enrolled in the Hospitality Professional Program. The 17-week long online program has a flexible schedule and is available for any student in the Thompson-Okanagan-Shuswap regions. After the 17 weeks of classes, students finish with nine weeks of work experience in the local community.

“Okanagan College is leading the way by collaborating with industry partners to respond in areas where we have real needs in the workforce,” said Okanagan College Minister of Advanced Education Anne Kang. “This new program at Okanagan College supports our Future Ready Plan and shows how working together with the local industry can both support people who are looking for training to advance in their careers, and help businesses find much needed skilled workers.”

Students across Kelowna, Salmon Arm, and Penticton began the program in October. When having the classes online makes it more accessible for students to take part in the course, training will be hands-on during the work experience portion.

“Since the classroom work can be done online and the work experience is completed in the students’ home community, this program is accessible to many people throughout our region. You don’t have to live in Kelowna to participate,” said Okanagan College President Neil Fassina. “Flexible learning options like the Hospitality Professional Program are critical as we respond to local and regional workforce needs.”

This new program combines many courses that already exist at OC, including management and leadership training, human resources, and computer training along. In the course, students will complete industry certificates like Serving It Right or Foodsafe and two certificates from the college: Hospitality Service Training (HOST) and the Basic Accounting Certificate (BAC).

“We are very excited to be working closely with Okanagan College to help design this program and provide training opportunities to current and future tourism industry employees,” said TOTA CEO Ellen Walker-Matthews. “This important partnership is an invaluable collaboration as the hospitality industry works to rebuild in a post-COVID world; attracting, retaining and retraining staff and building a robust workforce.”

According to the 2019 B.C. Tourism Human Resources Strategy, the industry has seen the number of workers in the industry decline rapidly because of people retired and not enough young people joining the industry.

“This program is designed to start people on a journey of a career, not just a job. When most people think about hospitality, we think front desk and housekeeping. But the need is and will continue to be much broader over the next few years,” said OC Director of Continuing Studies Danelle Greebe. “The Hospitality Professional Program aims to meet the needs of the industry right now. We’re very excited to be able to partner with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association to provide these courses.”

The program will be offered three more times over the next two years.

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