The Future of Work in the Tourism Sector Starts at School

Courses that address emerging trends combined with an experiential learning environment can give future tourism and hospitality workers the skills employers want.


By Joe Baker

According to Tourism HR Canada, tourism is a $90 billion industry that employs over 1.8 million workers, outpacing many other industries in the country. As Canada’s share of the global tourism market increases, so does the need for a highly skilled workforce. At Centennial College, we see this as an opportunity to build a workforce equipped with the skills required for the future of work in tourism. How do we do this? By learning from the source.

Philip Mondor, president and CEO of Tourism HR Canada, recently facilitated a two-day workshop at Centennial College on the future of work in the tourism sector. The event provided our faculty with insight into current and future labour market issues. It also offered an introduction to the Future Skills Framework and competency-based learning. Understanding the needs and challenges of the industry allows us to tailor our curriculum to the demands our graduates will face. By critically mapping programs against competency frameworks and closing any gaps, we ensure that our grads are prepared for the future success of working in tourism.

Canada’s position in the global tourism market, as well as its global standing and competitiveness, is largely dependent on its ability to attract, develop and retain talent. Education needs to play a role in this talent pipeline. There is a need to increase the understanding of the tourism industry’s economic and social importance among businesses, industry, governments and educators.

An experiential learning environment helps prepare students for future careers.
An experiential learning environment helps prepare students for future careers.

How do we as Canadian educators address these issues? By creating a curriculum that immerses students in real-life experiences. These include work-integrated learning opportunities, events, competitions, field trips, workshops and all things connected to the industry. We need to ignite a passion for tourism within our students and help them see the industry as a viable and rewarding place to pursue their careers. We also need to ensure that their passion can be matched with opportunities for career development.

We pride ourselves on the fact that our faculty members come to us directly from the industry. Their direct knowledge and experience ensure that our tourism-focused programs are relevant to the needs of employers. As educators, we have to be equipped with knowledge of current trends, standards and needs of the industry. With that knowledge, our faculty members can challenge their own assumptions and the system itself. Together we can address the needs of the industry and guarantee its success.

Collaborating closely with partners like Tourism HR Canada enables us to identify current needs and create programming that makes a difference. This way, we can shape the future workforce of the Canadian tourism industry within the higher education institutions across the country.

About the author

Joe Baker is dean of the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts at Centennial College in Toronto. During his tenure as dean, Joe has spearheaded a hospitality-focused experiential learning environment, including a 350,000-square-foot mixed-use residential and academic space hat includes a quick-service café, full-service restaurant and 20,000-square-foot event centre with four hotel rooms. All facilities are open seven days a week. Since opening its doors in fall 2016, school enrolment has more than doubled with programs and food operations receiving external accreditation, industry designations and guest-driven awards. Joe is a director of Tourism HR Canada, which first published this article.