Stepping up to the Plate

Nutana Collegiate CATT Students Host 2010 CATT Student Conference

When Tourism students, educators, school board representatives, and partners descended upon Saskatoon in May 2010, Nutana Collegiate was ready for them.

The Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism (CATT) selected the Saskatoon secondary school to host the program’s fourth biennial student conference, which was held on May 13 – 16. 

The CATT program is designed to foster an awareness of tourism career opportunities and to give students a head start in post-secondary studies and in the work world.  CATT students develop academic, technical, and job skills and they earn certificates that will help them on their career paths.  The program is divided into three levels: Level I, Level II, and Gold Level.  Level I and Level II certificates are recognized nationally and Gold Level certificates are recognized nationally and internationally within the tourism sector.

There are 80 CATT schools across Canada and Nutana Collegiate is the first CATT Gold Level school in Saskatchewan.  “We were honoured to have been selected to host the conference,” says Phyllis Fowler, CATT Coordinator at Nutana Collegiate.  “It was an opportunity to make a significant contribution.”

It was also a rich opportunity to engage the school’s CATT students in an authentic learning experience.  “This was not a hypothetical situation,” says Sarah Loewen, Travel and Tourism teacher at the secondary school.  “We planned a real event and students got to see tangible results of their hard work.”

At first hesitant to take on the planning and execution of such a major event, the students became eager to show off their burgeoning event planning skills.  “I couldn’t wait for the first day,” says Katie, a member of the Conference Promotion Committee.  “I wanted to see how well it turned out.”

To kick start the planning process, Ms. Loewen led the students through exercises to establish the vision, set goals, and set the agenda.  The students’ down-to-earth goals were to offer a warm welcome and to show their peers a good time while exposing them to both the urban centre and natural environments in the Saskatoon area.  “I want to show how awesome Saskatoon is,” says Steven, a member of the Promotion Committee.
Students had the opportunity to take on tasks like writing introductions for dignitaries, soliciting donations for prizes, and promoting the event throughout the school and the city.  The infectious enthusiasm of the CATT students generated a buzz among other Nutana students and enrollment in the program went up.  “We had 30 students registered this quarter,” Ms. Loewen reports, “but next quarter, who knows how many we’ll have!”

On top of learning academic and technical skills, the CATT program fosters development of valuable soft skills.  By participating in a real-life learning experience, the students build self-confidence, learn communication skills, and underscore the importance of responsibility and work ethic.  “After the first week of the course,” says Steven, “my parents noticed an amazing change.”  Their teachers remark upon the transformation too.  “Students come into the class feeling shy and unsure,” says Ms. Loewen, “and by the end of the course, their leadership qualities have emerged.” 

Throughout the spring quarter, the students’ laser focus was directed on the CATT student conference, but what happens after high school?  While not all Nutana CATT students are planning on pursuing a career in tourism, the skills they are learning are transferable to all areas of their lives.  “I want to start a charitable organization,” says Steven, “or become an electrical engineer.”  Of the students who want to continue in tourism, the most popular careers are chef, club owner, and hotel manager.  Katie planned on using the CPR Level 3 certification that she earned through CATT to get into a paramedic program but now she says, “based on how much I’m enjoying the class, I might be leaning towards a career in tourism”.