In early November of this year the very first JOCO WORKS was presented by Novo Nordisk as an industry-led collaborative event, supported by education, business, civic, and government partners created to meet Johnston County’s workforce needs of the future.  This two-day event was held at the Johnston Community College campus, where 8th-grade students were introduced to 10 “worlds” of job opportunities with hands-on activities.

“Leading the Hospitality World for the JoCo Works project totally made sense to us.  Making it all work in this first year provided us with plenty of challenges,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, JCVB President/CEO. “Sarah Elizabeth Lagasse, our Sales Manager at the bureau did a stellar job hosting meetings with our tourism partners, and organizing the two-days of activities.”

Tourism workforce encompasses several business sectors, and over the two-days students were exposed to the following:  Recreation Management, Destination Marketing and Promotion, Museum Exhibit Design and Artifact Identification, Restaurant Management, Retail Window Design and Merchandising, and Meeting & Event Planning, with some fun activities like a photo booth and jeopardy trivia.

A table set with tourism industry information and gifts sits on a raised platform in a classroom.

The perception that tourism jobs are low-paying and offer no advancement could not be further from the truth.  Yes, many entry-level jobs in retail, restaurant, and hotel management may be minimum wage, but college degrees are available for management positions for those interested in tourism as a career.  NCSU Tourism, Parks & Recreation representatives participated in the JOCO Works program, and information on where students could pursue a degree was provided.

The following NC 4-year universities, community colleges and private culinary schools are great examples of secondary education available for students:  ECU – Hospitality Management, NC Central University – BS in Hospitality & Tourism, NC State University – Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, UNC Wilmington - Recreation, Sport Leadership & Tourism Management, UNC Greensboro – Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism, Western Carolina University – Hospitality and Tourism, Wake Tech Culinary Program, Johnson and Wales.

“A project this size is not possible without our tourism partners and we would like to thank each and every one that helped:  Jordan Astoske, Howell Woods, Colleen Roby, Simple Twist, Lynell Seabold, Ava Gardner Museum, Melody Worthington, Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Todd Johnson, Johnston County Heritage Center, Annette Atkinson, Huebner Family McDonald’s, Karen Henthorn, Carolina Premium Outlets, Whitney Knollenberg, NC State University,” stated Bailey-Taylor.

For more information about JoCo Works, visit the website at

Tourism Partners pose for a group photo in the Hospitality room during the JoCo Works event in Smithfield, NC.