After moving to Whistler in 2001, Gillian Mitchell did her fair share of monotonous jobs. By the time she was turning 26 Mitchell decided she needed to focus on a career, but she did not want to leave Whistler.
That’s when she decided to enroll in the newly created Destination Resort Management Diploma program at Capilano College in Squamish.
“I think I actually saw the program advertised in the Pique, and I thought not only can I go to school and still call Whistler my home, but I can take a program that will help me build a career in the industry that makes Whistler what it is,” she said.
Two years later, Mitchell is part of the second graduating class from the resort management program.
Fifteen graduates received their degrees on Thursday, Dec. 13 at the ceremony held at the Squamish Adventure Centre. Those attending the event included Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland, the program’s dean, and local tourism industry personnel.
And four Whistler-area residents — Mitchell, Robyn Louwe, Marli Anderson, and Sandy Nielsen — were among those receiving diplomas.
“I thought that I was so well versed with tourism and I knew everything about it,” said Anderson, whose parents own the Adventure Ranch in Pemberton.
“But then I took this program and it just helped refine so many of the sections I didn’t really know about, like human resources, finance management, party planning, and everything like that,” she said.
Anderson added that the diploma expanded her knowledge of destination marketing, how to make a town more of a destination to tourists and how to make it more sustainable.
“One of my favourite parts of the graduation is now we get to move into a role where the students become colleagues,” said program convener Stephanie Wells.
“I would say welcome to the graduates to the tourism industry, and I look forward to working with them on a colleague basis as opposed to a faculty-student role,” she added.
The Destination Resort Management Diploma is a 16-month program launched three years ago that teaches students how to succeed in destination resorts around the world. The students work with local businesses and organizations such as Tourism Squamish to develop an understanding of the industry, as well as complete a mandatory co-operative education component.
Of course with only three years running, the Destination Resort Diploma program is still in its early stages.
Wells said the faculty is constantly tweaking the program to make sure students are getting the skills they need to do well in the tourism industry. She added that this year the faculty focused on offering students more opportunities to work with tourism organizations throughout the Sea to Sky corridor.
“When you run a program for the first time, the second year you learn so much more,” said Wells.
“We were able to, as faculty, really sit down after that first diploma and say, okay, where were the strengths, where did we have over laps that we need to reduce, how can we get out into industry more.”
The Destination Resort Management diploma is just one of several tourism and outdoor recreation programs offered at Capilano College. Over 400 students are currently enrolled in the tourism department, and the college was chosen as the host institution for the B.C. Centre for Tourism Leadership and Innovation.