Providing opportunity

EcO15 to research opportunities
in hospitality, tourism education

Foundation awards $38 million
for education advancement

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(November 2008) – More than 14,000 residents in southeastern Indiana work in the tourism-hospitality sector of the economy, according to recent research. A lack of educational opportunities and research about available careers is about to be corrected, thanks to a new project by tourism and hospitality leaders in the area.
As part of the $38 million Economic Opportunities 2015 project, also known as EcO15, a $450,000 research project will study the career opportunities in the hospitality-tourism economic cluster and help develop appropriate training curriculum for schools and colleges in the area, according to EcO15 regional coordinator Jeff Schroer.
“We are going to focus on higher opportunities and develop a reasonable educational pathway for people to invest in to get a higher return for their investment,” he said. “We should have the assessment with recommendations completed within six to 12 months, and then can go from there to develop the career pathways training program.”
The EcO15 Hospitality and Tourism Initiative was launched Sept. 30 at the Madison, Ind., Ivy Tech Community College campus. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, keynote speaker for the event, spoke of the “tremendous opportunity” that lies within hospitality-tourism, an industry accounts for $10 billion in annual state revenue and more than 260,000 employees.
“Indiana’s tourism industry is thriving. Each year, our state plays host to 62 million visitors,” said Skillman, who oversees the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. “Along with the success of our tourism industry comes new opportunities. With programs like the Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 initiative, we are able to create an environment that helps foster job growth and economic development.”
EcO15 is a southeastern Indiana 10-county initiative conceived by the Heritage Fund – the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Ind. – and funded with a $38 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. Each county’s community foundation is eligible for EcO15 grants from Heritage Fund to develop and administer programs in their own county.
The goal is to connect the residents of the region to economic opportunity through education by 2015. Already, leaders have worked to bring Advanced Manufacturing Education into junior and senior high schools in all 10 counties as well as making this advanced training available to the local workforce.
Now hospitality-tourism workers throughout the region will be afforded similar advanced training and education opportunities.
“Tourism is the third largest industry in Indiana,” said Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Lytle. “We don’t have a clear picture of how many jobs are still available and what advancement potential is out there.”
To put things into perspective, Schroer said there are about 38,000 residents in southeastern Indiana employed in the manufacturing sector of the economy. There are about 14,000 area residents employed in health care, and 14,000 in hospitality-tourism.
“We have career pathways programs for the other industries, but we just don’t know enough about what tourism offers in terms of career opportunities,” he said. “We’ve got to give this issue some needed attention. It’s definitely worth the investment.”
He said the regional study will include a review of all existing tourism occupations, salary ranges, benefits, and current and future employment demands. It will also explore strategic approaches to acquiring and communicating career pathways and occupational opportunities. This study will include recommendations for distributing the information collected to employers, workers, and students from middle school to adult learners.
EcO15 plans to hire a hospitality and tourism coordinator for the region who will promote the career opportunities this industry sector provides. The coordinator also will work with EcO15 staff and other community stakeholders to develop educational pathways and increase awareness of the economic opportunities available.
Lytle said the hospitality-tourism sector includes convention and visitors bureaus and county tourism offices, gambling boats, restaurants, retail stores, hotels and state parks.

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