Already recognized for its support of underrepresented groups, Columbus has launched an apprenticeship program to help close a racial equity gap in the tourism community. (Andy Spessard)
In 2020, Experience Columbus sent strong messages that the city stands against racial injustice and restated its support of racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ population, and people with disabilities. The city is now expanding its diversity initiatives with the launch of a new Diversity Apprentice Program to help overcome underrepresentation in the tourism, hospitality, and the events industries.
Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have partnered with Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), an industry resource for diversity expertise that created the Diversity Apprentice Program, which was designed to help diverse candidates gain work experience and mid-level jobs.
The apprentices “could actually impact the culture of the organization.” — Shannon Jones
To shepherd Columbus’s program, the DMO hired Shannon Jones, who has been doing similar DEI work in education for several years, as its first-ever director of diversity, equity, and inclusion programming.
According to Jones, the program will help close a significant racial equity gap in the Central Ohio hospitality community. In 2020, nearly 28 percent of Columbus hospitality employees identified as Black, Asian American, or Hispanic, while 73 percent identified as white, according to a study by Tourism Economics. Yet 36 percent the city’s population is Black, Hispanic, and Asian American, Jones said.
“The numbers don’t match,” she said. “From a hospitality standpoint, we want to make sure our industry’s racial diversity matches what is existing in Columbus. This is another way to ensure people of color in our community have an opportunity to shape our community. Holistically people of color are not necessarily represented in the ways that they need to be. And I think Columbus is really committed to ensuring that the people who make decisions look like all the people who live in Columbus.”
Columbus kept the eligibility standards broad, Jones said, allowing anyone at least 18 years of age with a high-school diploma or GED who self-identifies as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color to apply. More than 50 candidates have applied for six available apprenticeships.
Once they are hired, the six will have the opportunity to choose a tourism, hospitality, events, venue, or sports career path that aligns with their professional career goals. They will gain 600 hours of paid, hands-on work experience over six months at one or more of the following host organizations: