Trained to welcome
Course offered participants lessons in tourism, hospitality
A six-week program aimed at getting more Mi’kmaq youth employed in the tourism industry wrapped up Friday.
Of the 10 participants, six have secured jobs this summer in tourism and hospitality.
They came from all five of Cape Breton’s First Nations — Eskasoni, Membertou, Waycobah, Wagmatcook and Chapel Island.
Part of their training included working as heritage interpreters with Eskasoni Cultural Journeys on Goat Island.
The island offers tourists an authentic cultural experience by way of a recreated Mi’kmaq village.
Tracy Menge, director of community economic development in Eskasoni, said tourism is becoming more important to the economy of First Nations communities in Cape Breton.
“We’re really trying to focus on tourism and grow that industry for our communities,” she said.
“We want to see the tourists stay longer and visit more communities in the long run.”
The program was funded by the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office, which seeks employment and business opportunities for the local aboriginal population.
Program participants worked at Goat Island on days when cruise ship passengers would visit.
Four of those in the program have secured work at Goat Island through the rest of the tourist season, she said.
She believes there will be interest in organizing another sixweek training program.
“I think there will be a need for more training like this.”
Another reason to invigorate interest among aboriginal youth surrounds succession planning, Menge said.
There are several heritage interpreters who are ready to retire, she said.
The Goat Island trail is a popular excursion for cruise ship passengers.
Eskasoni recently had agree- ments signed with the Holland America Line, as well as another cruise line, to have Goat Island marketed as a destination to their passengers.
“Their responses have been very positive.”
Audrey Francis, left, and Pelonik Dennis offered job coaching and training support to the 10 participants of the six-week tourism and hospitality training program in Eskasoni. The program ended Friday and so far six of the 10 participants have already secured employment in the tourism industry in their home communities.