Terre Haute is preparing for an increase in tourism with its new convention center and the forthcoming Queen of Terre Haute Casino Resort. In response to the expected influx of visitors, the city is looking to bolster the skills of frontline service workers at restaurants, hotels and other attractions. The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce is launching a Business Concierge Hospitality Training Program designed to boost the soft skills of service employees, as well as their knowledge of Terre Haute’s assets and history.
Courtney Chipol, regional director for the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, tells Inside INdiana Business they want make sure small businesses are ready for the growth and also benefit from it.
“When tourists are here in town, how do we make sure that they go to the local coffee shop? How do we make sure they go to a local diner?” said Chipol. “We really wanted to focus on helping our local, independent businesses know how to benefit from this tourism. When tourists come into town, they do want those referrals to local businesses.”
The program is being implemented through the chamber’s See You In Terre Haute 2025 Community Plan initiative. Chipol is also the co-chair of the initiative’s Economic Development Task Force.
She says the program wants to create great ambassadors for the community as more visitors come in. Part of that effort is to boost their soft skills.
“So when a local coffee shop hires a barista, they usually only have to train them on ‘this is how you make this drink.’ They don’t really have time to train them on suggestive selling and customer service and some of those really important soft skills. So we thought, ‘Isn’t this just the perfect opportunity to marry the two?’ and really provide that 360 holistic training for their front-house workers.”
Participants in the program will complete an online course and attend an in-person training session that will include roleplaying exercises and presentations. Those who complete the program will receive a certificate.
The program will be offered at no cost to businesses and employees.
The chamber recently received a $15,000 grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation to support the program.
“We are thrilled and grateful that the Wabash Valley Community Foundation funded this unique program,” Josh Alsip, director of community engagement at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, said in written remarks. “With Terre Haute expected to continue to receive more and more visitors each year, it is essential that we ensure we are providing them with a good experience.”
The Economic Development Task Force aims to launch the program in early spring 2023. Chipol says they’re currently looking for a consultant to help develop the curriculum, set up on the online portion and teach the first six in-person sessions.
Chipol says the program could have benefits beyond existing employees.
“We’re also looking to offer it to individuals that are unemployed that are going through our local WorkOne, offering it to college campuses when they have students on board. So, even if they aren’t working anywhere yet, they can go through that training and get that certificate of completion, that will hopefully then give them a leg up when they do go and apply to some of these positions.”
The chamber says businesses interested in having their employees participate in the program can contact Alsip by clicking here.