Ten years ago Brian White helped develop a tourism supervisory management program, through Capilano College, for Whistler. The certificate program ran for a couple of years in space donated by the Nancy Greene Lodge and the Blackcomb Lodge, but ultimately there wasn’t the population or the money to keep the program alive.
Following through on a promise he made a decade ago, White is now back to launch the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program, a university degree program offered at Whistler Secondary through Capilano College and the Open University — and the first step toward creating a Whistler Education Centre.
"A lot of universities have used Whistler as a case study, but they’ve never stuck around for the community," White says.
"We intend to."
The Bachelor of Tourism Management program begins at Whistler Secondary in March with two courses. The 15-20 students admitted to the program will have face-to-face contact with instructors through intense three-day sessions and then will go home to their own computers to call up the Capilano College central server to download material which will form the bulk of their studies. The Internet and conference calls will be used to augment studies.
But beyond the initial Tourism program, which will be of interest to Whistlerites, White feels a destination education product can be developed which will draw international students to Whistler to study and fill beds during summer and shoulder seasons.
"We’ve also got a whole new generation of teens growing up in the community; this could lead to programs that will keep them in school in the community," White says.
The Bachelor of Tourism Management program is being launched at a time of education cutbacks in British Columbia. Capilano College is putting up some of the funds for the program but White was able to get provincial funding because, in addition to being senior man in Capilano College’s Tourism Department, he is the provincial curriculum co-ordinator for degree development. The Tourism Management program is being developed co-operatively and will eventually be offered at colleges across the province.
"I wanted to do it first in Whistler because Whistler is a leader in tourism," White says. "Whistler is an absolute hot-house in terms of innovation."
White feels Whistler now has the population and people with the experience to teach many of the courses in the Tourism Management program, and he’s willing to train locals to teach. Ten years ago that level of education and expertise wasn’t available in Whistler. Moreover, White feels strongly that if a Whistler Education Centre is developed it must belong to the community.
In addition to launching the certificate program in tourism management 10 years ago, White helped establish the Whistler Spirit program, was involved in raising funds which launched the Whistler Public Library, and produced a plan for a Whistler Education and Performance Centre, which became the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts.
Among the differences this time around is that the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program is fully accredited. That makes a huge difference for destination education and also gives local students courses that will be recognized elsewhere.
"But it isn’t just a matter of being accredited," White says, "it’s a matter of putting training and education on the table that’s relevant and useful to the community."
"Each course (in the Bachelor of Tourism Management program) is a stand-alone and will be a very useful piece of education."