By Noah Alatza
Beginning as early as this month, students from Westfield High School can earn up to 18 college credits through Hamilton County’s Hospitality Immersion Certificate Program. The program is geared for students who are focused in the hospitality, tourism and management fields.
Westfield is the only school in Hamilton County to launch the pilot program.
“We approached several high schools, including Westfield, and many were interested in it but the timing was not right for them,” said Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism. “In addition, we thought one district might be all we could focus on in the pilot phase, and we were right. The success of the program has far surpassed our original goals, and that makes it both exciting and more challenging to manage.”
Students can begin the program at any point, but to receive full completion and the certificate, they must to start with sophomore introductory classes through their senior year, Myers said.
The program is a partnership between Westfield Washington Schools, Ivy Tech Community College, IUPUI’s Dept. of Tourism, Conventions & Event Management and Hamilton County Tourism Inc. Students can choose from six courses taught by industry professionals in a host of areas ranging from special event planning to sports event management.
All courses will transfer from Ivy Tech Community College’s Hospitality Administration program to Indiana University’s TCEM program at IUPUI.
“These classes must be authorized by the state’s higher education program, by each participating unit of higher education and by the state’s secondary education program,” Myers said. “These are the classes that they deemed appropriate at the high school level.”
According to Hamilton County Tourism, Inc.’s most recent Economic Impact report conducted by Rockport Analytics in 2015, tourism is the seventh largest industry in Hamilton County, behind health and human services. The local tourism industry employs 10,650 people in Hamilton County, roughly 7.6 percent of total employment. Between 2014 and 2015, tourism employment grew 9.4 percent compared to overall county employment growth of 5.3 percent.
Credits can transfer to other universities or be used to support a minor in tourism or hospitality management. As part of the program, students can opt to work in hospitality, tourism or event business during the summer. Many industry partners have agreed to be a part of the program by offering internships.
“It is more of a resume-builder than an official document that can be used as a college portal, except those programs that do accept the dual credits,” Myers said. “A study by the U.S. Travel Association shows that one-third of all students who started their careers in the travel industry also achieved a bachelor’s degree and note that in Indiana the total population with a college degree is less than one-third.”
Hamilton County will add a minimum of eight new hotels or see a 40 percent growth in rooms in the county. Hamilton County Tourism estimates up to 500 new jobs will need to be filled in these high-growth years.