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Tourism Education Initiative Planned To Support Anticipated Jobs

Students sit in a classroom and hear a lecture. The students' faces are blurred, and the camera focuses on the teacher's hand holding a marker.F8/Adobe Stock

The West Virginia Department of Tourism is launching an education initiative in anticipation of a boom in tourism jobs across the state.

The Shape Our Future educational program has launched an updated hospitality and tourism curriculum in all 55 counties. It’s meant to help the career path become more viable for students at community and technical colleges.

Other significant parts of the program include a program for high schoolers to receive college credit, grant funding from the Departments of Education and Tourism for students to create tourism infrastructure projects on public lands and a shift in the state’s Discover Your Future program to highlight future careers in tourism at middle schools.

The college program is part of a workforce development initiative called Tourism Works. It was created to support a growing state tourism industry. The state’s Higher Education Policy Commission predicts there will be 21,000 annual tourism openings through 2025.

“We’ve all heard people say there are no jobs in West Virginia, that you’re gonna have to move when you graduate, but that’s not true,” Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said to a group of students at Nicholas County Career and Technical College.

She announced the program at the college Tuesday alongside Gov. Jim Justice.

Plans for further expansion of the program are scheduled for next year. A tourism marketing specialization will also be launched as part of the curriculum this fall.