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Tourism Industry Association of Ontario Recognizes Centennial College

Exterior view of the Culinary Arts Building at Progress Campus

When Joe Baker became the dean of Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts (SHTCA) in 2014, his vision was clear: build an academic school that, through its close connection to industry, prepares graduates who understand industry trends and challenges and have the aptitude to make an impact. Five years later, SHTCA has cultivated meaningful relationships with the tourism sector’s most relevant organizations — including the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), which recently recognized Centennial as its September Member of the Month.

“This type of recognition means we are positioned as a leader in the educational space and partners are seeing that,” says Baker of the acknowledgement, which included being spotlighted on TIAO’s website through an interview the dean conducted alongside SHTCA professor and program coordinator Michael Bertuzzi. “What we want from that leadership position is for employers to know that when a Centennial College graduate’s resume comes across their desk, they have a candidate who is completely equipped for the job market.”

Beyond industry accolades, SHTCA’s connectedness serves a wide range of purposes. To start, Baker says through its relationships, SHTCA develops strong Program Advisory Committees (PACs) comprised of influential industry members who provide real time insight and advice on programming. As a result, Centennial’s curriculum and delivery are adaptable and flexible, ensuring content isn’t only relevant today but that it also looks to the future of Canada’s tourism sector.

“We are never more than six months away from being able to launch a new course,” says Baker. “The agility of our program coordinators and chairs to respond to industry comes from the intentional design of a team that’s grounded in industry. We are very responsive to what our industry partners tell us is needed now and down the line.”

In fact, the industry’s needs continue to rapidly evolve as Tourism HR Canada, a supplier of labour market intelligence, reports a shortage of 100,000 tourism workers in Canada. That, says Baker, is a shortfall of $11 billion in unrealized revenue. What’s more, by the year 2035 that labour shortage is predicted to jump to 235,000 unfilled jobs.

“Being aligned closely with industry allows us to work with associations and organizations that see the issues, patterns and trends while actively working to develop systematic solutions to address issues,” says Baker.

Beyond PACs, SHTCA engages industry partners in numerous ways. For example, PAC members serve as guest speakers in the classroom, allowing students to network while accessing up-to-date information. Campus career awareness events, work-integrated learning opportunities during which students help organizations execute events aligned with their area of study, and co-op experiences, meanwhile, round out the ways in which Centennial leverages its industry network.

Students also benefit from the integration of various organizations’ credentials and initiatives into programming — from Centennial’s status as the first Ontario academic institution to receive Culinary Tourism Alliance’s Feast On certification (which signifies the sourcing of local food and beverage products for use in its academic programs) to offering, in all SHTCA programs, It’s Your Shift certification, which equips learners with crucial knowledge and resources to prevent sexual harassment and practice safe intervention.

Interestingly, as Bertuzzi noted during the interview with TIAO, the SHTCA-TIAO partnership aptly demonstrates the biggest benefit of Centennial’s connectedness.

“By partnering with TIAO, be it the fortunate opportunity for students on work integrated learning, attending TIAO events or hosting TIAO for events, it helps broaden students’ understanding of the opportunities in the industry and the needs of the industry,” he says. “It has quite pointedly resulted in students better understanding where they can go in their career and being more ambitious in their pursuit of opportunities.”

By: Izabela Szydlo