The University of South Carolina Beaufort opened its newest campus Wednesday, a school for hospitality management in the heart of Hilton Head.
The $21.2 billion dollar tourism industry is responsible for one in every 10 jobs in the state of South Carolina, with Hilton Head hosting more than 2.4 million visitors every year.
“Hilton Head is a superior environment for hospitality education,” said USCB’s Hospitality Management Dean Charles Calvert. “So for students to be able to come to our school, to study but also apply that theory to practice in the work environment is transformative for their educational careers.”
The 40,000 square foot campus on the south end of the island is set up like a conference center, equipped with a production kitchen, a beverage lab, and high-tech offices.
The campus will provide education and hands-on experience to about 90 juniors and seniors at first and expand to about 400 over time, allowing them to join the workforce while they study and then stay for a career.
“South Carolina is a huge economic boom for tourism because you’ve got your beaches, you’ve got your mountains, and you’ve got the Midlands area,” said junior Wyatt Lunsford. “So with hospitality, I’m excited to call South Carolina home, you know, forever.”
Calvert says one of the greatest needs on Hilton Head is a qualified workforce, so it’s “a win-win” for guests and residents alike.
“When you look at the number of restaurants that we have on the island, and the hospitality industry and the dependence that we have on the hospitality industry,” said Hilton Head’s S.C. Representative Jeff Bradley. “Anytime you can raise the value of the people working in an industry, it can’t help but improve things.”
Construction started in April of 2016 and the campus will officially open to students on Nov. 26.
The university says residents don’t have to worry about more traffic on the island — they will bring students in from Bluffton dorms on a shuttle.