COA congratulates Tourism & Hospitality Program grads

By on May 8, 2018

Crystal M. Bush (left), Pei-Hua Shen, Timothy Sweeney, Dustin D. Lugay, Mary L. Schillings, Rebecca Sherrod, Tracey Starling, Dr. Tina Bradley, Melinda Maher. (COA)

College of The Albemarle’s Dare County Campus held its Hospitality and Tourism Certification ceremony on April 26.

Graduates and business partners were in attendance as Dr. Tina Bradley, COA Tourism and Hospitality instructor, elaborated on the principles behind the study of hospitality.

It is no secret that the Outer Banks is a vacation destination built on customer service.

COA’s Hospitality and Tourism program compliments several components derived from an industry that thrives on customer service.

Melinda Maher, COA Reservation Certification Instructor, shared the history behind hospitality in the Outer Banks.

She spoke about New England pirates who took a voyage to the Caribbean Islands and brought back rum, spices, and food, such as pineapples.

The sea captains would share tales of their experiences and the hospitality they encountered.

Today, the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and for Dare County, it represents the first experience guest encounter and the lasting impression they leave with.

“Our certification program is filling a great need in our community. It is designed to develop graduates into stellar professionals which will be apparent to customers, co-workers, and employers,” noted Bradley.

Business partners agree that COA is preparing workforce-ready graduates.

Danny Register, Surf or Sound Realty Operations Manager, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony and had wonderful feedback to share about his experience with the program and with hiring COA graduates.

He worked with COA to have a customer service training implemented for the entire staff at Surf or Sound Realty.

The training was eye-opening and led to positive feedback from employees who were at first skeptical about having to take the training.

During the summer of 2016, research data was collected from Outer Banks guests visiting popular sight-seeing attractions.

They were observed and their comments about their perception of guest services in a hospitality environment to learn what the tourism industry was doing right and identify what needed attention.

COA then developed classes designed to produce first-rate professionals whose skill sets would be ‘noticed’ by customers, co-workers and employers.

The core of the first required course, Customer Service, is having the students truly empathize with visitors.

In addition, students are required to complete a computer course, as well as serve as an Outer Banks Ambassador, a one-day course where students learn about the popular destination locations and history of the Outer Banks.

Students may then choose between certifications in reservations, housekeeping or maintenance. Upon completion, they can confidently enter, or continue, their careers in the hospitality industry.

The COA program can be completed in just a few months. Grants and scholarships for the unemployed or those economically challenged are available.

Clark Twiddy of Twiddy and Company was instrumental in funding the Outer Banks Community Foundation Scholarship fund.

This scholarship allows any Dare County resident to take the Hospitality and Tourism Certification program at no cost to them.

Jeremy Miller and Jodie O’Sullivan from the Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks, who serve as business partners with the program, came to the ceremony to show their support for the program and to personally congratulate their newest employees, Pei-Hua Shen and Dustin D. Lugay.

This speaks volumes of the partnership between COA and its partners. As graduates complete the course, opportunities are streamlined with local businesses to provide potential employment.

Stuart Pack, Chief Executive Officer of Resort Realty, shared his future plans to work with the college to develop a mentor job shadow program for COA students.

Crystal Bush was excited to receive her Hospitality and Tourism Certification and spoke with a program partner about applying with their company after the ceremony.

Crystal received her GED in 2005 from COA and made the decision to return last year because she “wanted a career, not a job”.

For more information about the Tourism and Hospitality Program, contact Dean Tim Sweeney or Sherri May at 252-473-2264.

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