COLUMBUS, Ohio — To deal with under-representation in the hospitality industry, Experience Columbus sought after businesses in central Ohio that would partner with them to close the equity gap. 

What You Need To Know

  • According to the last census, 24% of the population in Franklin County identified as Black

  • In the hospitality industry pre-COVID, 16% of those involved identified as Black

  • Partnerships with Tourism Diversity Matters and local businesses jump-started an apprenticeship program

  • Diversity in the industry mainly exists in entry-level positions, not in leadership positions

  • Click here to learn more about Experience Columbus

Shannon Jones, the diversity equity and inclusion director for Experience Columbus, helps to manage the apprenticeship program.

“According to the last census here in Franklin County, 24% of our population identified as Black; however, pre-COVID, only 16% of our industry identified as Black,” she said. “There’s clearly a discrepancy there that we definitely wanted to close.”

While there is diversity in the tourism industry, Jones said it becomes less in the leadership positions.

“A lot of that diversity lives in the entry-level positions,” Jones said. “But we know in order to create actual change, there needs to be more diversity and more leadership and higher-level positions, which is why we partnered with Tourism Diversity Matters to start this program.”

The first cohort, which comprised five participants, finished their apprenticeship at the end of March.

“All of them have received a full-time position that started the program. And they’re all, you know, financially… they’re all in a better spot, right,” said Jones. “So because the program was designed to put them in a leadership position, they were able to get access to positions and companies that they didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to do before.”

As they continue with the program, Jones clarified that while organizations often say they can’t find people of color, they aren’t always looking hard enough.

“The reality is, is that we’re out here, and we are smart, and we are ready to work in your organization,” she said. “So I think having this program reminds our organizations that there are super talented people of color in our community that are ready for the right opportunity.”