Okanagan College program meant to retrain hospitality workers gets provincial funding

Participants will receive 16 weeks of training and a 10-week work experience opportunity 

Hospitality workers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With COVID-19 exacting a particularly heavy toll on the hotel industry, there is fear that up-and-coming talent may be lost, with many hotels running at bare bones capacity due to a lack of demand. 

Officials with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) are hopeful workers can get some valuable training during this period of transition via the Hospitality Professional Program. 

It recently received just over $600,000 in provincial funding.

Based on identified needs within the hospitality sector, participants will be trained in a variety of positions, including supervisory roles as well as training in computer software, marketing and sales, soft skills, industry certifications, HR/management, project management, and accounting.

The program aims to retrain people who may have lost their job due to pandemic-related cutbacks, explained Ellen Walker-Matthews, vice president of destination and industry Development at TOTA. 

“It’s a way of trying to attract people back into the tourism sector,” said Walker-Matthews. “A lot of people have lost their jobs in tourism, but there are still a lot of tourism jobs to be had.”

These positions can vary from positions in IT, marketing and sales, human resources, to accounting, she explained. They require specialized training, something the program can provide, she explained. 

The program includes 16 weeks of online training through Okanagan College, further supported by 10 weeks of work experience. The work experience portion is paid. 

Walker-Matthews said the program presents a valuable opportunity for participants. 

“They won’t receive their bachelor’s, but they will find work in areas of the industry that they may not have thought they have a skill set in,” said Walker-Matthews, adding that employers may choose to invest in further education down the road. 

For more information on participating in the program, TOTA is asking the public to contact their local WorkBC Centre.