Five BIPOC apprentices offered full-time career opportunities, new cohorts starting to help close the racial equity gap in the tourism industry

Leah Berger, APR, CTA, Public Relations Manager, Experience Columbus, 614-222-6145

To help overcome underrepresentation in the tourism industry, Experience Columbus partnered with Tourism Diversity Matters, an industry resource for diversity expertise, to launch the Diversity Apprenticeship Program last fall. The inaugural cohort of the program ended on March 25, 2022, the second round is underway, and applications are now open for the third cohort.

The Diversity Apprenticeship Program helps close the racial equity gap in the Central Ohio hospitality community by providing hands-on experience and job opportunities to local students, recent graduates and professionals who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and have a passion for tourism. The paid apprenticeship program is structured to position the apprentice for long-term professional success in a leadership capacity in the travel industry.

The inaugural class of Columbus’ Diversity Apprenticeship Program completed their apprenticeships earlier this month. All five apprentices have been offered full-time manager-level positions from their host sites that they will start at the end of March. These host organizations include: Experience Columbus, Columbus Regional Airport Authority, Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Hyatt Downtown.

“We are so proud of our inaugural class and all of their achievements," said Shannon Jones, DEI Director for Experience Columbus. "We’re honored that we were able to provide them with meaningful, hands-on experiences that helped them build the foundation for a successful career in the tourism industry. Columbus prides itself for having the most robust diversity apprenticeship program in the U.S. with the most apprenticeship opportunities and industry partners—as well as being the only city that offers every participant who successfully completes the apprenticeship program a full-time position. We look forward to growing our program this year and offering incredible opportunities to even more BIPOC residents.”

“The best part of this program is being able to show up to work every day as my authentic self, be given space to build genuine connections and be valued for my thoughts and ideas," shared Alicia Norman, DAP apprentice. "As a Black woman, I have never felt more supported and heard in a professional setting.”

Additionally, the second DAP cohort is underway, and five apprentices are in the middle of their six-month apprenticeships, which began in January 2022 and will go until July 2022. These apprentices are assigned at least one host organization and will work across its multiple cross-functional departments (i.e., marketing, administration, guest services, sales, finance, event planning, etc.) for 600 hours during the six-month cycle. Upon successful completion of the apprenticeship program, these participants will also be offered a full-time position. The host organizations for the second cohort include:

  • Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
  • Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Sonesta Columbus
  • Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
  • Levy Restaurants
  • Hilton Columbus at Easton

For those interested, Experience Columbus is also actively recruiting for the third cohort of the Diversity Apprenticeship Program. Applicants must be 18 years of age, have a high-school diploma or GED and self-identify as BIPOC. Interviews will be held with advancing candidates after the application window closes. Apprenticeships will be awarded by the beginning of July 2022. The third apprenticeship class will begin later this summer or early fall and will end in early 2023. Exact dates will be announced soon. The Diversity Apprenticeship Program will continue to be held twice a year. Applications for this six-month apprenticeship program are now open and will close on Friday, April 29, 2022. 

To learn more about the Diversity Apprenticeship Program and to apply, visit


Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus' blend of neighborhoods; dynamic nightlife; noteworthy music scene; arts and culinary experiences; events; attractions; and accommodations are all made unforgettable by the diversity of its outgoing locals who eagerly await warmly welcoming visitors. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at Visitor information is also available on Facebook:, Twitter: @ExpCols and Instagram: @experiencecolumbus