A new online training program helps to ensure that the faces of the state’s tourism industry — hospitality employees — are able to provide the services essential to visitors. Known as “West Virginia Welcome,” the course is available on West Virginia University Extension Service’s online learning system.
West Virginia Welcome, designed by the West Virginia Hospitality Education and Training Program, provides an introductory overview of the essentials of hospitality, such as how to put customers at ease, be personable and proactively solve problems.
“We want our guests to love West Virginia,” said Donna Wilkes, director of the West Virginia Department of Education’s Hospitality Education and Training program. “Each interaction customers have with our hospitality employees contributes to the satisfaction and comfort of their visit. The training helps make sure our employees are well prepared to meet the customer’s needs.”
What makes the training program unique is its delivery system, which allows employees across the state to complete a self-guided course at their convenience.
“Some of our state’s finest tourist attractions are in rural areas that make travel to on-site trainings difficult,” said Frank DeMarco, coordinator of the WVU College of Business & Economics’ Hospitality and Tourism program. “Employees were spending up to two days traveling for a hospitality training program. They can now receive a comparable overview online, saving time and money.”
The project is a collaboration among WVU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, West Virginia Department of Education’s Hospitality Education and Training program, the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association and the WVU Extension Service.
“This program’s success is a testament to what WVU can do through collaborations,” said Doug Arbogast, WVU Extension Rural Tourism Development specialist. “We have the capability to connect our resources within the university to departments across West Virginia to service the state’s needs.”
Arbogast hopes to continue to work together with these departments to bring more tourism courses and resources online for further education about hospitality and to serve other needs in the industry.
“We have thousands of small businesses in West Virginia that can benefit from this course,” said Carol Fulks, executive director of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.
“My hope is that we will build on this first piece and move forward to supervisory and management courses which become certifications for the industry,” Fulks said.
Upon completion of the 45-minute course, each participant will receive a hospitality certification from WVU Extension Service and the West Virginia Department of Education’s Hospitality Education and Training program.
The course is available at http://www.cewd. ext.wvu.edu/west-virginia-welcome. For more information on the course contact Wilkes at 304-558-6321, or e-mail dwilkes @access.k12.wv.us.