Resort management employees across Whistler no longer have to choose between their jobs and their education, thanks to a part time program offered through Capilano University's Squamish campus.
Designed as an alternative to the 16 month full time destination resort management (DRM) program currently offered, the two-year part-time option allows students to continue their employment while gaining valuable education that applies to their industry. While the program officially begins in September 2011, one Capilano student is currently doing a test run.
"It's directly related to where I want to go and my direction in life, that's for sure," said student Todd Weitzel, who works as a front desk manager at Coast Blackcomb Suites in Whistler. "I've always loved the industry that I'm in, I've been working in hotels for seven years and I wanted to take it to the next level by doing the diploma program without giving up my job."
According to Weitzel, while experience is a key component for progressing up the resort management ladder, having a diploma provides an extra edge. DRM instructors agree, and have designed the program around the general scheduling needs of employers and employees in Whistler.
"The feeling behind it was if you're already here building your career or you own a business and you're looking to get more business skills and foundation skills then it doesn't matter whether you finish it in 16 months or in 24," said Capilano's Destination Resort Management program conveyor Stephanie Wells. "The bottom line for us is that we would like employers to know that there is an educational option for employees they would like to keep and groom for management positions."
Students in the part-time program will be able to utilize their current jobs as part of their mandatory co-op work term by taking on a small project within the workplace. Courses included in the part time program include human resources, marketing, sales, entrepreneurship and organizational leadership, plus foundation classes that examine the industry as a whole based on interactions and lectures from key stakeholders.
"The students get access to a behind-the-scenes look of the destination," continued Wells. "Anybody can visit the resort and walk around but we're able to provide a behind the scenes connection with industry leaders within the resort who will talk to the students about things that are happening and challenges and ways to improve."
To provide that hands-on experience, students in the DRM program work on local events like the Squamish Reads literacy fair and the annual Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, where they organize the Big Air event under the tutelage of directors from Whistler's heavyweight communications company, Watermark.
"What really drew me to the destination resort management program was not only the fact that I live in Squamish and was still able to do all the things that I love like ski and rock climb, but that I got hands-on experience," said Weitzel. "Experience is great, and I have seven years under my belt but having a diploma gets you that much further."
Weitzel's former general manager Ian Lowe, who now works as GM at the Crystal Lodge, was fully supportive of his employee's desire to pursue further education while retaining his front desk position.
"The biggest win for us and why we participated with Todd is that quite often in the past when we have new hospitality people up to a certain level they often want to pursue schooling and in the past we've often lost them to city locations or even locations outside of British Columbia," he said. "It worked out well from a business perspective and we don't lose him to another location so it keeps the most engaged staff members in the property and allows them to continue their studies while working in Whistler and when they graduate they have the choice whether they want to stay in Whistler, which we obviously hope for."
Capilano University will be holding information sessions on the DRM program in Squamish on April 13 and in Whistler on April 21. For more information go to www.capilanou.ca/tourism .
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