Florida Keys Community College, the only post-secondary education institution based in the island chain, is adding two new associate’s degree programs, in Hospitality and Ecotourism Management and in Culinary Management.
The goal is to prepare students to work in the area’s dominant industry: tourism — and take advantage of that industry for internships and expertise.
“Those two programs seem to be the perfect fit for the Florida Keys,” says Michelle Choate, chair of the college’s Business Administration department. “The hospitality industry is tremendous down here and is sort of the core of our economy.”
The Keys received an estimated 3 million visitors in 2014, according to the county’s Tourist Development Council. The lodging industry varies from independently owned guesthouses to resorts owned by corporate investors. Restaurants range from tiki huts with gas grills to fine dining.
The college is hoping to draw students nationally and even internationally with the new programs.
“We really want to be that place where people learn how to do things the Key West way,” Choate says. “That is, having a tight community, making visits and the tourism experience wonderful, focusing on sustainability and ecotourism.”