A new course set to launch this September at North Island College (NIC) is adding a new dimension to tourism and hospitality studies on the mid-Island.
The newly-formed Food Fundamentals and Service course is designed to expose tourism students to the inner workings of a commercial kitchen, by sending them behind the scenes of Third Course Bistro, the student-run restaurant on the Campbell River campus of the college.
It allows the students to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, making them better managers and team players,” according to Deborah Forsyth, chair of NIC’s tourism department. “They are really pumped about being in the kitchen and learning something new.”
In many businesses that have a food service aspect, Forsyth says, “there can be a certain level of tension between the front and back of the house, or between management and kitchen staff.”
Courses like this one help those who hope to manage people in the service industry better understand things from the viewpoint of the other party, she says.
While the tourism students have been operating the front of house at Third Course for years, this is the first time they will be venturing into the back to actually prepare the food being served. While the culinary students are still off doing their internships – they will be back operating Third Course in the winter – the tourism students will be in there training and studying the intricacies of commercial kitchen operation. They will also be opening to the public – though the offerings will be a fixed and limited menu so as not to overcomplicate the matter.
“It’s really exciting,” Forsyth says. “We’ll be opening up Third Course in November on Friday nights and the tourism students will be running the whole show – under the close watch of the culinary instructors, obviously.”
Forsyth says they have been restructuring NIC’s tourism programming to ensure students connect with industry and have as many applied experiences as possible, from new courses like Food Fundamentals and Service to expanded co-op and internship opportunities, and she’s excited to be rolling out some of the changes that have been made within the department.
“We’ve been tinkering the last couple of years to make sure we’re giving our students the best opportunity to succeed.”
The tourism program was previously designed around the concept that students would use it as an entry point into a management degree program of some kind, but they have come to realize that’s not really happening in most cases – only about 20 per cent of students take that path provincially, Forsyth says – so it’s been cleaned up and tailored to better suit the students’ needs.
“We’re really trying to make it accessible to as many people who are interested as possible,” she says, and they do that by removing any significant barriers that may be in place.
Their admissions requirements were one of those potential barriers, she says.
Because the emphasis of the program used to be in the business aspects of the industry and preparing students for entry into a full degree program, Forsyth says, the math prerequisites for admission were “really quite high.”
Now that the program has been broken up to allow for students to take more self-directed pathways to graduation, however, those prerequisites have been relaxed somewhat.
So, what’s next in terms of changes to the tourism programming at NIC?
Well, Forsyth says she is particularly excited to continue exploring field school opportunities and exchange programs, and hinted about announcements coming soon about agreements that are coming together with institutions in Cuba, Denmark and Scotland.
“It’s a really exciting time for us just now,” she says.
For more information on the tourism offerings available at NIC, contact Forsyth directly at email@example.com or head over to nic.bc.ca and have a look around the site.