Columbia State launches hospitality program with kickoff event, internships
Career Summit, Move Week and Grand Opening shine light on new Williamson Campus
By Charlane Oliver
Columbia State Community College is partnering with area businesses, Williamson County Schools, Williamson, Inc. and the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau to launch a hospitality and tourism management technical certificate program in the fall of 2016. This technical certificate–the first of its kind in Middle Tennessee–is designed to prepare students to advance in one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing fields by providing basic industry knowledge and business management skills with a focus on students gaining real-world experience.
Columbia State is introducing the program at an invitation-only career summit event on May 14 at 8:30 a.m. for potential students, their parents, industry representatives, college officials and community leaders. Attendees will hear success stories from individuals currently working in the hospitality and tourism field, network with employers who are providing summer internships and get an overview of the program.
With the 36-acre, $45 million Williamson Campus extension expected to open this summer in Cool Springs, Columbia State is looking to claim their stake in the county’s economic growth, particularly in a prime hub for development near the intersection of McEwen Drive and Carothers Parkway located at 1228 Liberty Pike. The opening completes Phase One of the new Williamson Campus, which can accommodate up to 2,200 students. Fully built, the Williamson Campus could serve as many as 6,000 students.
The community is invited to join Columbia State for a Grand Opening Celebration, which is scheduled for June 22 at 10:30 a.m. The celebration will include the opportunity to tour the new campus.
The new Williamson Campus will have a significant impact on the future of economic development as a partner in solving workforce issues. The hospitality program will further expand Columbia State’s footprint in Williamson while meeting a demand to fill vacancies in a growing industry that is seeing more tourists and newcomers flocking to the county.
“There is a real need for qualified talent to work in the hospitality industry,” said Dr. Shanna Jackson, associate vice president for the Williamson Campus and current Williamson, Inc. Women in Business Steering Committee member. “We first learned about this skills gap through talks with Ellie Westman Chin at the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau and being approached by business leaders who’ve said they cannot find employees to fill their jobs.”
Columbia State is serving as that vehicle to create programs that train qualified employees for the industry, but it has been a collaborative effort.
“Ellie has been instrumental in connecting us to the business community,” said Jackson. “Rebecca Collins, the Chamber’s liaison and career counselor for Williamson County Schools, is helping with student recruitment, and this would not have been possible without the backing from potential employers.”
The 23-credit hour program is designed to provide direct relevant coursework and can be completed in two semesters. Students will be encouraged to work in the field while completing the program through a paid summer co-op/internship experience. Students who complete the program will receive a Hospitality and Tourism Management Technical Certificate. The plan is to expand the program into an associate’s degree program.
“Anyone ages 16 and up who is interested in a hospitality career is welcome to apply,” said Jackson. “We accept high school students, recent high school graduates, college students and working professionals, and you do not have to live or work in Williamson County to be in the program.”
Participants will take courses in regional tourism, event management, sales and marketing, hospitality management and supervision, and food safety.
In an effort to promote the diversity of the hospitality and tourism career field, industry partners are offering paid summer internships to selected participants. Jackson says student recruitment will be key to the program’s success, as well as educating parents on the broad spectrum of career choices—not just the minimum wage jobs that have come to overshadow the industry’s reputation.
“It’s not just about working as a server or hostess but also about helping people understand how broad and diverse the industry is,” said Jackson. “You have tourism and travel and huge events like the Pilgrimage Festival, Main Street Festival and CMA Festival that require a competency in marketing, sales and event planning to make sure things go well and within budget. These are key skills that Columbia State can offer.”
Collins is taking the lead on working with employers and students to organize 19 internship placements.
“Anytime businesses connect with our students, it gives our students exposure to real life career opportunities and the opportunity to make a connection with someone in the community,” said Collins. “Many of these students will go off to college and then come back to work in the community, so we’re helping to train Williamson County’s future workforce.”
Summer classes begin May 31, and hospitality internships will begin in June, lasting four weeks with a second round in July. Employers include several area hotels, restaurants, event planning companies, media outlets and tourism sites.
Internship applications are being accepted until May 21 at williamsonchamber.com/education. Companies who wish to participate as an internship site may contact Rebecca Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-472-4063.
Learn more about the Columbia State’s hospitality and tourism management program, visit the website.