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First Nations tourism training program launched

There was a large celebration last week to launch Capilano College's unique new diploma program.

There was a large celebration last week to launch Capilano College's unique new diploma program.

The newly-created program is a First Nations Tourism Management Co-operative and it is only being offered through the Capilano College campus in Squamish.

The program is a partnership between the college and the Squamish, Lil'wat and Musqueam First Nations along with the Ministry of Advanced Education.

Thirty-four students are enrolled in the 16-month program. The course started in January and the program continues until spring of 2005.

Attorney General Geoff Plant was at the celebration on Friday (March 12) to help launch the course. During the gathering at the Totem Hall in Squamish, Plant announced that the provincial government contributed $400,000 to support the new college program.

"As we invest in First Nations by creating new opportunities, one of our priorities is to ensure we are matching skills training with areas of greatest need in our economy - clearly tourism is one of those," Plant said.

"There are enormous openings emerging in aboriginal tourism as we prepare for the Olympics and we are working to support these. This new program will help build management and administrative skills for First Nations and enhance the entrepreneurial spirit that every successful industry needs."

Students in the program will learn technical skills, make contact with the industry and go through a four-and-a-half-month supervised co-op work term. The students will learn the skills needed to manage hotels, resorts, adventure and cultural tourism businesses, First Nations attractions, conferences and special events. The course also gives students insight into resort dynamics and environmental stewardship. At the end of the course the students emerge with a diploma that is transferable to Capilano College's Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program.

"The 2010 Olympics in Whistler represents a significant milestone in moving towards establishing sustainable First Nations tourism within the corridor from Vancouver to Mount Currie," said Capilano College president Dr. Greg Lee.

"This unique educational partnership is enabling students from three First Nations communities to meet the growing demands for cultural tourism opportunities in that region."

The students enrolled in the program were on hand for the official launch.

Lorne Edmonds of Mount Currie moved from his home town to Squamish to participate in the tourism course.

"I'm enjoying it a lot more now," Edmonds said at the launch party. "At first it was difficult. The workload was intense. It is easier now."

Sam George of the Squamish Nation said he loves the course and finds it exciting.

"It's new," George said. "It opens up a whole lot of doors for me. It will give me the knowledge to open up my own business, the knowledge to run it and succeed."

George plans to complete the course and launch an eco-tourism adventure company that will offer tourist experiences that focus on First Nations culture.

Dr. Brian White of Capilano College described the students in the program as "very high calibre".

"Many have already taken either Capilano College's Wilderness Leadership program, our Applied Business Technology program or the Squamish Nation's Guardian program," said White, the degree program co-ordinator. "Any employer would be lucky to have one of these people working for them."

White added that the program promises a rewarding educational investment for years to come.

"All partners involved with this unique program are displaying an openness to new ideas and a receptiveness to everyone's needs," said Lee. "The College is proud to be a part of this important collaboration that will have long-lasting benefits reaching from 2004 to 2010 and beyond."

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