By Dauna Ditson
The College of the Rockies (COTR) Invermere campus is launching its first diploma program ever, with classes beginning this spring.
Everyone wins with the new hospitality management program, said campus manager, Michelle Taylor, adding that there are benefits for local students, international students, the Columbia Valley hospitality industry, and the local economy.
The hospitality diploma program was developed after extensive community consultation that began in 2015. It was designed to address the needs of the local hospitality industry, Ms. Taylor said. As part of the consultation, COTR found that 80 per cent of employers had difficultly filling hospitality-related positions.
Local employers are so supportive of the new program that Ms. Taylor said she may find herself with more paid work placement opportunities for the students than she can fill. In order to address housing needs that could arise, some employers are offering accommodations for students who become employees, she said.
Richard Bingham, general manager at Copper Point Resort, said staff accommodations would be available at a cost for diploma students who are employed at the resort.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming the students into the community,” he said, adding that the resort could arrange to shuttle students to the college.
International students may be interested in using the diploma program as a path to gaining Canadian citizenship and permanent employment in the Columbia Valley, Mr. Taylor said. According to a news release from COTR, international students may make up the majority of the first program, “reflecting a growing demand for workers that can’t be satisfied by the region’s existing labour pool, and a high-level of interest in tourism and hospitality training among international students.”
Several international students have inquired about the program since registration opened on January 24th, Ms. Taylor said, noting that COTR has an excellent track record with international students. In 2013 and 2014, the
institution ranked first in the world for international student satisfaction, according to studies conducted by the International Graduate Insight Group.
Students who live in and around Invermere will now be able to complete a diploma program without having to move, Ms. Taylor said. If they intend to continue their schooling, the program has been designed to allow them to transfer right into their third year of hospitality management degree programs elsewhere in the province. Students who intend to stay in the Columbia Valley will be well prepared to serve in the hospitality industry and will have gained valuable experience through their work placements.
“We structured the schedule so it would accommodate the industry,” Ms. Taylor said. Semester breaks mean students would be available to work fulltime during the busiest times of the year, including two months in the summer and three weeks around Christmas.
There are economic benefits for a community any time a diploma program is added, Ms. Taylor said, but she anticipates even greater benefits with this particular program because it will address business needs and has the potential to launch students in careers in the local industry.
There is room for 24 students to enrol in the course. For domestic students, tuition and fees for the two-year diploma program come to $8,816. Ms. Taylor expects the program to fill and encourages students to apply quickly.
To register or learn more, visit www.cotr.bc.ca or call 250-342-3210.