Visit Tampa Bay is taking a grassroots approach to inspiring local teens to engage in hospitality and tourism. The CVB is partnering with Hillsborough County’s Community Action Board to sponsor the first Teen Hospitality and Tourism Academy on March 16.
The all-day event gives 80 teens from disadvantaged Tampa neighborhoods the opportunity to connect with hospitality professionals, tour facilities and learn skills that will prepare them for a potential career in hospitality.
“In hospitality, you don’t necessarily need a college degree to excel in your position,” says Sherri Brown, multicultural business development executive for Visit Tampa Bay. Brown, with 36 years in the hospitality industry, notes real-world experience and the will to succeed can compensate for a brand-name college education.
Attendees and chaperones will be given a walking tour of Tampa Convention Center and Hilton Tampa Downtown, as then cruise on a Pirate Water Taxi down the Tampa Riverwalk. They will learn how hospitality and tourism are integral to the city’s economy.
Tourism officials like Brown and Santiago Corrada
, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, will address the teens. Also speaking will be Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, who worked briefly in hospitality before turning to law enforcement.
The academy will also feature elements of STEM and social media—and how each field ties into developing facets of hospitality.
The hope is for the teens to feel inspired and excited to take advantage of the jobs at their local hotels and businesses as early as possible.
Brown says students from these disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to begin at Hillsborough Community College in culinary tourism and then transfer to the University of Central Florida
or Florida International University, rather than stay in Tampa area.
“Coming from a disadvantaged community myself, this is something I wish someone would’ve done for me,” Brown says.