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Tourism operators on Great Northern Peninsula having trouble finding summer students

NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L. — For some tourist avenues of the Great Northern Peninsula, hiring summer students is a growing struggle.

Iris Decker of Ship Cove often had little trouble hiring a student to guide visitors and tourists at the outport’s museum and popular hiking trails each summer. But in the summers of 2016 and 2017 Decker says she was not able to find a student.

“I’ve been very successful until these last few years. I advertised and put it on the bulletin boards, but I could not find a student for two years in a row,” Decker said. “Here in Ship Cove, there’s not a young person. If there was, believe me, they’d be working.”

Decker says it’s too bad the issue has persisted, given the work that was put into Ship Cove’s museum and the history of the community displayed inside.

“The museum has a lot of interesting things people would appreciate, especially those who are away from home and come back during the summer,” she said. “It would benefit the community to have the museum opened and to tell visitors about our beautiful trails and our community.”

Decker is currently visiting family in Nova Scotia, but is hopeful that when she returns to Ship Cove in June she will still be able to find and hire a student this summer.

Need for a new student

Noah Smith runs the museum and historical site in Raleigh, located in the former Anglican school.

Smith hires one student each summer for the museum. But this year, the returning student he usually hires has gone to university and Smith is now hoping to find a new hire this summer.

“I was lucky to have that one student because it’s important we have a student that’s talkative and outgoing,” said Smith. “Within the next couple weeks I’m hoping to find a student for the historical site.”

Smith says since Raleigh no longer has the funds for tour guides to Burnt Cape, the town’s tourist season has lost much of its visitors. The Burnt Cape ecological reserve, which can be seen from the wharf at Raleigh’s historic village, is renowned for its unique plant life.

“When that cut was made to the guided tours of Burnt Cape, we lost 60-70 per cent of visitors, maybe even more than that,” said Smith. “It’s too bad for the students we hire, because they want to be challenged too. They just don’t want to be waiting and waiting for people to show up.”

Smith hopes the government funding for guided tours to Burnt Cape can eventually be reinstated.

Still, there are several factors with the tourist season in Raleigh this summer that Smith hopes will bring a boost to the community’s visitors. With a new crafts business and cabins in town, Raleigh’s Polar Bear Dip in June, and a Smith family reunion, Smith says this year may be a better showing for tourism.

‘It’s beneficial for us and for them’

Although she has hired six students so far this season, manager at the Grenfell Interpretation Centre Cynthia Randell says overall it is getting tougher to find students willing to come home and work at the centre.

“It’s getting harder to fill these positions, because of a lot these students when they go away for school they don’t come back,” said Randell. “The last couple years have been good, but one year before that we were right down to the crunch to get our volunteers.”

Randell prefers to hire students in post-secondary education, but in recent years she’s reached out to more high school students to ensure she has enough workers for the summer.

Randell says despite the struggle of less students returning home for the summer, she’s received more calls in recent summers directly from students who want to get involved.

“It gives students a great experience, learning the history of Dr. Grenfell and this area and working with the public,” she said. “It’s beneficial for us and for them.”


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