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New tourism industry program aims at training and keeping workers



Whistler already out-front in development of programs for tourism employees

More workers will be needed in a dozen tourism related industries if growth continues at the same pace as it has for the last decade in British Columbia.

The industry projects it will need 44,300 new workers in food and beverage, 19,150 new workers for accommodation services, 13,100 new workers in adventure tourism and outdoor recreation, 12,000 new workers for attractions, and 500 new workers for travel services.

It’s an issue Whistler is well aware of and for the last 18 months a Tourism Whistler representative has been working with government, tourism agencies, and other stakeholders to formulate a strategy for growth.

"What we will hopefully get out of it is a more stable workforce in the future to help us ensure that we are able to continue to deliver a fabulous product," said Jennifer Geddes, manager of employee experience at Tourism Whistler.

In B.C. the tourism industry ranks as one of the largest sectors of the economy as measured by revenue generation and employment.

The government target for 2010 is $20 billion annual revenue, with 33 million overnight visitors and 200,000 direct tourism jobs. That’s almost double today’s figures.

Tourism will generate $8.2 billion in GDP and contribute $2 billion revenue to the Provincial Treasury.

These numbers do not take into account what will happen to the industry if Vancouver and Whistler are chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee will decide the winner July 2.

In order to face this challenge in the fall of 2001 28 CEOs, general managers, human resource directors, industry association leaders and tourism educators formed a task force to lead the Recruit, Retain and Train: Developing a Super, Natural Tourism Workforce in British Columbia project.

Several workshops have been held around the province, including one in Whistler.

The task force developed a five-year plan and established a co-ordinating organization, go2.

The go2 organization will have an operating budget of $1.2 million and will be funded in part through the sale of courses, including the "Serving it Right" and "Foodsafe" programs.

It also gets funding through the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council and other stakeholders.

It is projected that go2 will attract 50,000-84,000 new workers to the province before 2010.

It also wants to develop high profile career pathways, help position tourism as an employer of choice, contribute to a drop in turnover rates, help establish learn-while-you earn part-time upgrading options, encourage education to develop tomorrow’s tourism industry leaders, and forge co-operative human resource efforts and partnerships.

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