PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Gulf Coast State College could soon become the “go-to” for the local hospitality industry looking for workers.

“Unfortunately, there has not been a direct feeder program here for such a large tourism sector so one of the reasons that Julie Hilton endowed the position in the program was created at Gulf Coast State College was to kind of fill that gap of training,” Endowed Chair for Hospitality Management and Culinary Daniel Henderson said.

Hospitality management classes will help train locals for the new lodging and food businesses opening in our area.

“We are so looking forward to the program because it gives us that opportunity to get the students to come to us and we yeah, we opened five resorts just in 2023 so we are growing and we’ve added hundreds of people to our team just this year so we want to add more and it’ll be great to add them from our local students,” St. Company Vice President of Leadership Terri Hoskins said.

Some of the program’s curriculum will be tailored to meet the needs of local businesses.

“We want to know from local stakeholders what the needs and desires are, we want them to be involved in the interactions with the students while they matriculate through their two-year program, I want the students to be able to see the wide variety of opportunities that they have right here,” Henderson said.

However, the students will also learn about job requirements that are universal to the hospitality industry.

“They are the face of those resorts to all of the guests and to anybody that that is considering staying anywhere within Bay County or Walton County so it’s all about their image, it’s all about their service, it’s all about just the skills that they bring, whether it’s in food and beverage or it’s in lodging,” Hoskins said.

The program is 60 credit hours. More than 20 students are currently enrolled and on track to graduate after another three semesters of classes.

Click here for more information about the program.