|By Sean Kinney, Florida Keys Keynoter,
(Marathon, Fla.)McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 03, 2012--Florida Keys Community College is looking at offering students career training in Monroe County's single biggest industry -- hospitality and tourism.
Frank Wood, the college's business administration professor, is tight-lipped regarding the would-be program, which has been described as some type of partnership with Florida International University.
"It's very premature to make a comment at this time," Wood says. "We're exploring the feasibility of a program."
However, FKCC President Jonathan Gueverra shed a little more light on the subject in a report he presented to the college's Board of Trustees at its Sept. 24 meeting in Marathon.
Gueverra describes the push as involving staff at the college, FIU, Key West High School and representatives from local lodging and hospitality associations.
"We are getting to a point where the major players are coming together to create an interim advisory board to guide the future of hospitality education at FKCC," he said.
Gueverra said he, Wood and other FKCC staff "have been meeting with individuals representing a cross section of interests in hospitality education and employment."
Although Gueverra has reignited the push to bring a hospitality management program to FKCC, he's not the first president to make such an attempt.
In 2009, then-President Jill Landesberg-Boyle went so far as to select a Connecticut man to head a three-pronged curriculum.
Bill Williams' and Landesberg-Boyle's accounts of why he never started the job differ, suffice to say the plan for a culinary, hospitality and tourism curriculum resulting in an associate's degree never materialized. But FKCC board Vice Chairman Ed Scales says there's still very much a need for that type of training.
"We've been talking about that for a long time," he said. "Right up the road, FIU has a terrific hospitality management program. At this point I really don't know what shape a partnership would take but we should really take advantage of it."
On FIU's Biscayne Bay campus in North Miami, the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management graduates more than 1,500 students every year with both bachelor's and master's degrees. FIU also has a $100 million training center in Tianjin, China, established collaboratively with that country's government.
Additionally, FIU has a number of research programs operating in the Keys, largely focused on marine resources. It's in the process of looking for an Upper Keys site to house a research facility.
Jodi Weinhofer, president of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West, says training local students could help create a more sustainable workforce.
"Those people already have roots in this community, they already have family and a place to stay, they understand the cost of living here, they understand the lifestyle. So they're our most likely employees if we can train them."
"We think it's a great fit," she says of the potential program at FKCC. "When your economy depends on tourism and government, you have to train people in those things."
(c)2012 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.)
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