Showcasing Tourism Careers: The Earlier, the Better

The global tourism market continues to see strong growth, outpacing the economy as a whole. Canada is setting visitor records and investing in tourism product development and marketing. A labour shortage means ample opportunity to build a stable, well-paid career. Yet in many schools, despite there being curriculum available, tourism is not offered as a stand-alone topic for secondary students to explore.

For 25 years, the Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism (CATT) has been supporting schools who wish to implement tourism as a field of study. The national program, offered through Tourism HR Canada, has provided curriculum resources and hands-on learning experiences to thousands of students in over 100 schools across the country.

Recognizing that curriculum is set at the provincial/territorial level, and that class sizes, resources, and teachers’ experiences in tourism vary widely, the CATT program is flexible and allows teachers to weave the learning resources and experiences in as best fits their needs. Schools have the opportunity to incorporate the program over one to three grades, and students who complete set requirements earn a certificate to add to postsecondary or job applications.

Consequently, students, educators, guidance counsellors, and parents gain a fuller understanding of just what the tourism sector can offer. Young people can pursue postsecondary studies—right up to the doctoral level—and launch a thriving career, or choose upon graduation to enter an industry that offers plenty of on-the-job learning that can lead to managerial and executive roles.

The CATT program recently took part in the Global Travel and Tourism Partnership’s (GTTP) annual directors’ meeting in the U.K. Representatives from 15 GTTP member countries discussed the importance of secondary-level programming to meet worldwide demand for talent with a solid understanding of the industry and the skills and passion to push innovation and sustainability.

Countries such as South Africa, Russia, Ireland, Hungary, and New Zealand offer interesting examples of implementing and supporting tourism curriculum through government, education, and industry collaboration. Teachers, most of whom did not—or could not—study tourism as a “teachable” subject, gain access to tourism-specific training and conferences to help them fully understand the industry. There are awards for Tourism Teacher of the Year. Students have opportunities to interact and work with successful tourism companies with stellar HR policies.

However, many countries are facing the same issues as Canada: competition from other industries, a perception of low-paying, part-time work, and a focus on traditional career pathways and STEM programming.

By opening up a discussion on how to provide Canadian secondary students with a broader look at the variety of careers available to them, we can help students explore opportunities they may not have considered—before they’ve applied to postsecondary programs. We can help them learn about an industry that employs 10% of workers across Canada. We can allow them to build knowledge and skills that will support them throughout their careers and their lives. Even if they opt to pursue other fields of study, early exposure to tourism provides a positive perspective on the sector and dispels many of the myths that exists about tourism employment.

To learn more about the CATT program, whether as an educator or an industry stakeholder, please email info@tourismhr.ca.