Cumberland Now Volume 1, Issue 8 - Page 14

Christina Smotherman is gaining hands-on experience in customer service, hospitality and tourism service through an internship at the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. There she works with Chamber President Ethan Hadley and Melanie Graham. Story & Photos by Heather Mullinix Editor Practical Learning TCAT gives students hands-on experience in retail, hospitality & tourism Tourism is one of Cumberland County’s top industries, supporting more than 1,000 jobs in the county and bringing in $127.8 million in spending to the county in 2018. Tennessee College of Applied Technology launched a new program last year to support that industry both locally and across the region. The retail, hospitality and tourism technology program began 18 months ago. So far, three students have graduated from the program and all have found jobs in their industry. Christina Smotherman started the program in July. “I started looking at what I want to do the rest of my life,” Smotherman said. She has worked in a variety of jobs. The common thread was the joy she found in helping others and creating a pleasant environment. She works at Fall Creek Falls State Park in the hospitality department. She talked with her manager about her job. “I saw what she did and it sounded interesting,” Smotherman said. “I got a lot of information from her.” She was debating if she wanted to pursue the retail, hospitality and tourism certification from TCAT when a Bible verse caught her attention at church. Hebrews 13:2 said, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angles unawares.” “It was like a sign I should pursue this,” she said. She hopes to secure a position as a front desk clerk at the new Fall Creek Falls State Park lodge, set to open in the fall of 2021. Her long-term goals include working as hospitality manager for the park. The program teaches students best practices and skills used in the operations of retail stores, food service, lodging, attractions, recreation activities and travel-related services. Instructor Wanda Reid uses a variety of workbased activities, guest lectures, and portfolio building to develop the technical and professional skills needed by the industry. Reid works closely with area businesses to provide her students with internship opportunities, typically completed in the final trimester. However, Smotherman has been able to start her internship in her first trimester, helping at the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce one day a week. “I was excited for her to have that opportunity at the Chamber,” Reid said. “The people you will have the opportunity to build contacts with will be in your favor. It’s a great place to build those contacts.” 14 | Cumberland Now • September 2020