Explore Charleston has launched a paid internship program providing hospitality experience for minority college students.
The Intern Cultural Enrichment Program is a 10-week leadership development program that connects underrepresented minority students, many from historically black colleges and universities, with internship opportunities in seven area hotels and resorts, Explore Charleston said in a news release.
Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston, believes the hospitality industry needs to reflect the community it serves and is excited to see stakeholders come together to act.
“We’ve maintained a strong commitment to raising awareness and taking action for diversity, equity and inclusion for several years through our Heart for Hospitality efforts,” Hill said in the release. “More specifically, one of our strategic goals is to encourage opportunities to recruit and develop individuals from diverse backgrounds into tourism and hospitality.”
The interns are participating in a weekly curriculum that introduces them to the community and its culture, fosters interaction with businesses and civic leaders, and cultivates peer relationships. The program began May 25.
Marc Gibson, Explore Charleston’s director of inclusion and engagement, said the program was well-received, and while the original goal of 10 students felt ambitious, he’s excited to welcome 13.
“And during our conversations with industry leaders about ICEP we recognized an opportunity to expand beyond HBCUs to other colleges and universities,” Gibson said. “Ultimately, our objective is to recruit the best and brightest minority students who express a genuine interest in our travel industry.”
Hill hopes that the IECP internships leave students encouraged to continue pursuing careers in the travel and hospitality industries — preferably in the Charleston region.
“We’re honored to invest in the next generation of industry and community leaders and have every confidence this program will grow in size and scope in the years to come,” Hill said.
Explore Charleston is covering all summer housing costs thanks to a partnership with College of Charleston and Wild Dunes.