The effort was a collaboration between Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Valley State University, AHC + Hospitality and Experience Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR) was presented the 2020 Governor's Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration in the tourism education and training category during the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Grand Rapids on February 19th. The award acknowledges the collaborative efforts EXGR made with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), AHC + Hospitality and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to implement the first NAF (National Academy Foundation) Hospitality & Tourism academy in Michigan.

“This recognition of the NAF Hospitality & Tourism academy is extremely exciting for our organization and, hopefully, encouraging to our peers that are looking to impact their workforce,” said EXGR President and CEO, Doug Small. “When GVSU approached us about the NAF Hospitality & Tourism academy, we were eager to be involved. Workforce development isn’t just important to our community but the entire industry.”

Grand Rapids has evolved over the past 10 years to become a more diverse community as well as an emerging destination. Subsequently, there has been, and continues to be, substantial growth in the number of restaurants, hotel rooms and attractions to the area. With this growth in supply, there is a rising demand to fill the talent pipeline for hospitality and tourism related jobs.

Collaborators Rodney Lewis, Educator at Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Paul Stansbie, Associate Dean of the College of Community and Public Service attended the awards presentation at the Governor’s Conference in Grand Rapids alongside EXGR.

They provided the following statements within their letters of support for the award nomination:

For the past few years, the Board at Experience Grand Rapids had recognized the need to increase the employment and leadership opportunities for students of color from a variety of diverse backgrounds within the Grand Rapids area. The primary motivation to this was to not only help resource our expanding hotel community with a talent pipeline, but to expose students to the industry at an early age so they can learn more about vocational opportunities, network with professionals, and learn a set of transferable skills that will help them in their future careers.”- Paul Stansbie

“With this collaborative partnership, Experience Grand Rapids is helping to prepare West Michigan’s future talent in the industry of hospitality and tourism. Through the work of Experience Grand Rapids and other partnering organizations, students at Ottawa Hills High School have the opportunity to choose career paths in one of the world’s largest industries, including lodging, sports, entertainment, travel, food and event management.”- Rodney Lewis

“We hope that by establishing an entity like the NAF Hospitality & Tourism academy at Ottawa Hills High School we will inevitably impact the local workforce and tourism industry partners that are looking for talent,” said Small. “In the first year, the academy saw sixteen 9th grade students strengthen their skills to potentially join the industry after graduation. As the academy grows, we’d love to see this talent come into the community to better enhance the visitor experience as well as their own career paths.”   

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About Experience Grand Rapids

Established in 1927, Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR), the areas’ official destination marketing organization, strengthens the region’s economic vitality and quality of life by marketing Grand Rapids/Kent County as a preferred visitor destination.