Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism Celebrates 1000 Gold Graduates

HR Award Winner

The Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism (CATT) recently marked a milestone in its 15-year history: Sarah Burden of Auburn Drive High School had the distinction of being the 1000th graduate of the CATT Gold program. This honour was particularly fitting, as her Nova Scotia school was one of the four founding CATT schools in 1994 and has played an active role in the Academy’s growth.

The CATT program involves high school students in grades 10, 11, and 12. These students follow the regular curriculum with a specialization in tourism. Many academic and experiential projects associated with the regular curriculum are tourism related, however the skills developed through the program are based on nationally-recognized transferrable skills applicable to other employment sectors. Canadian high schools can be involved in the Academy program at three different pathway levels: Level I, Level II, and Gold.

“The CATT program at Auburn provides an alternative practical program for our students to select from a myriad of choices at the high school level,” says Principal Bernie MacEachern. “It affords our students the opportunity to combine the theoretical and practical application of tourism at the school level and in the community. The Academy enables our students to experience all aspects of tourism. Combining this experience at school with real life applications and key local stakeholders, our students gain the necessary skills to succeed.”

To further her tourism skills and experience, Sarah will be attending Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, pursuing a Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management degree. She hopes to work somewhere fast-paced and active, such as in the parks and recreation field.

She decided to explore tourism as a career option after realizing her interests were tourism related; making a living pursuing activities she loved, having the opportunity to travel and explore new places, and meeting people from around the world all appealed to her.

"The CATT program gave me a general idea of what to expect and look for in the different industries, from an employee’s point of view instead of a guest’s,” she says. “I had a co-op placement at the Museum of Natural History and loved it. I met some great people and got to try out and learn a lot of different things. I would recommend that anyone thinking about pursuing tourism become a part of it; it was a lot of fun and you get a lot of experience out of it.”

Auburn Drive’s program has been a great success: it has contributed to CATT’s growth through participation in many of its national projects, student exchanges, teacher internships, curriculum and portfolio development, and numerous conferences.

The school’s founding CATT coordinator, Judith Dickson, has seen the program advance not only tourism education, but education in general.

“The introduction of CATT was instrumental in having Tourism 11 and Tourism 12 curriculum developed in the province,” she says. “The Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC) and teachers have jointly written the curriculum and assisted with implementation of the courses in the province's high schools. Additionally, the NS Department of Education has recently implemented Options and Opportunities, a program to increase the level of student engagement and provide pathways to post secondary education and or work. This program is modelled after CATT, with a large emphasis on community-based learning which requires the support and involvement of the sector member businesses. In this program, we are seeing a large increase in students with an interest in culinary careers.”

Tourism education has solid support in Nova Scotia. NSTHRC, Mount St. Vincent, and NS Community College work together to provide professional development twice a year for tourism teachers. Articulation agreements exist for tourism and CATT students with Mount St. Vincent and NS Community College. Industry, too, plays a vital role. Ms. Dickson notes the support of Carol Logan of the Prince George Hotel, who is an Academy spokesperson and strong advocate of youth getting involved in tourism. She accepts numerous CATT co-op students each year, is a guest speaker at various Nova Scotia schools, and participates in their career fairs.

With the success of the Academy at schools such as Auburn Drive, CATT has grown to include programs at 85 schools across Canada, educating the young people who will continue to build a vibrant tourism workforce.

"The CATT program gives students the opportunity to learn about the vast range of careers within the tourism industry,” says Susan Durdle, Auburn Drive teacher and current CATT coordinator. “Through classroom-based lessons, field trips, job placements, and workshops, students are able to explore tourism careers to decide if one is right for them. This program is an excellent starting point for a career in tourism, because it allows students to gain the skills necessary to succeed within the industry. Through various networking events, they also make connections that will help to further their future tourism-related plans. The CATT program gives students the confidence to succeed within the tourism industry!”

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