This post is sponsored by Okanagan College
For Julia Dorrius, born and raised in Revelstoke, the College’s new Tourism Management (TMD) diploma has done far more than just open her eyes to the booming demand for skilled tourism professionals – it’s also opened doors, giving her a chance to gain work experience with local employers.
“I graduated high school last June and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” explains Dorrius. “My dad sent me a link to the program and suggested I take a look at it. I just finished my first semester and, so far, I’ve found it to be a great way to get the most out of the first two years of a business degree. You really learn a lot in a short amount of time, while getting work experience.”
Dorrius is among the inaugural intake of students, nine in total, who stepped into the program last fall. The Revelstoke grad is already putting her new business knowledge and skills to work.
“At the moment, I’m completing a co-op with the Railway Museum in town, doing marketing for them, and I am really enjoying it. It’s been a great experience, and something I likely would never have had the opportunity to do without the program.”
Her supervisor, Hayley Johnson, Interim Executive Director for the Revelstoke Railway Museum, has been one of the many local industry leaders who have championed the program since before it began.
“We all know tourism is vital to the Revy economy, and the fact is we need more skilled professionals to meet the demand right now. It’s very hard to find qualified staff,” says Johnson.
“Having this program based in Revelstoke is incredibly beneficial to students and employers alike. The students get a chance to build experience in exactly the types of jobs and settings they’re interested in, and we get to tap into a new cohort of well-educated up-and-coming tourism workers. It’s a win for everyone.”
That strong support from leaders like Johnson and scores of others is not lost on students, says Dorrius.
“It’s been great being able to stay at home and have the support from my family and the rest of the community. The community in town has been super supportive of the whole program and everyone taking part in it. The staff and professors at OC have been amazing too, so you can really feel the support for students across the board.”
Stephen Jenkins, owner of The Explorers Society Hotel, is among that group of business leaders trumpeting the merits of the program.
“Tourism is the growth engine for our economy, no doubt,” says Stephen Jenkins. “So, training students here means they can get a very clear sense of the tourism sector in Revelstoke. The program has been tailormade with our local workforce needs in mind.”
Jenkins says the program’s focus on giving students hands-on experience in industry is well thought out.
“I started my career through internships, so I’m a big supporter of opportunities that give students a chance to see the end product of all those hours in the classroom. Giving them a chance to work in and around various roles builds excitement. They come away with a better understanding of what to expect after graduation. And for those looking to take the initiative, to really stand out and excel in this industry, it gives them a chance to distinguish themselves by demonstrating their work ethic.”
One of those students who took the initiative is Stephanie Sonsona, who campaigned enthusiastically for a co-op position at the Explorer’s Society Hotel.
Sonsona, who hails from Bohol in the Philipines, is more than 11,000 km from her hometown. Thanks to the program, she’s found a new adopted home in Revelstoke.
“Before I came to Canada, I was given the opportunity to work in the hospitality industry and that set me on a new career path. Coming to Revelstoke and taking the program has opened my eyes to how big a career in tourism can be – just how many opportunities there are, and what an exciting time it is to get into the tourism sector,” says Sonsona.”
While she doesn’t have any firm long term plans yet for where she wants to work, Sonsona says the experience has equipped her to work in a variety of settings in the field. Each student completes a tourism sector study, for example, which allows them to experience both the depth and breadth of roles in tourism.
“The program is innovative and unconventional in that it challenges us and gives us the freedom to explore the industry and get hands-on experience, to build on the business knowledge we’re acquiring in the classroom,” she says. “Having professors who are experts in their respective fields, and who genuinely care about us as students, has really paved the way for me to learn.”
For Danielle Tighe, Manager of the Revelstoke Centre, the focus is now on working with current group of students to continue to ensure they get the most out of the experience as the first cohort through. Tighe is also once again working closely with industry partners to ensure support is in place for the second cohort to start this fall.
“We’re really encouraged by the feedback from students so far, particularly around how strongly the community has rallied behind them. From providing co-ops to helping us find accommodation, support from the good people of Revy has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has made all the difference.”
A host of other businesses and individuals have helped with student co-op placements, notes Tighe.
“Brady Beruschi, host at the Best Western and The Regent, has four of the nine students on co-op. We’re so grateful to everyone who has supported the launch of TMD in Revy.”
The College is now accepting applications for the program for September. Those interested can contact Kristine Wickner, Recruiting and Events Coordinator for OC Shuswap-Revelstoke at 250-762-5445 Ext. 8259 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. News and updates about the program and upcoming info sessions will also be posted to www.okanagan.bc.ca/tmd.