New NSCC course offers hands-on training at Digby Pines for hospitality students

It turns out you can have your cake and eat it, too.

One of the province’s most prestigious resorts and the Nova Scotia Community College have forged an innovative win-win partnership: Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa taps into a vital source of labour and the students develop valuable skills.

Like many establishments in the hospitality industry, the resort has had difficulty finding and keeping staff to tend to the needs of its global clientele. The resort’s remote location in western Nova Scotia has always presented a challenge in retaining workers, but the situation has only gotten worse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Glenn Squires, president of the Digby Pines ownership group, says his team tackled the problem creatively — by channelling the same spirit of innovation that led the new owners to reinvigorate the landmark since buying it in 2019.

The resort’s executives believed they could find synergy with the Nova Scotia Community College and reached out. Together, they pioneered a business hospitality program with faculty teaching on-site — a Canadian first in the realm of public-private partnerships.

“Not too many people can say that they get to study at a worldclass resort,” says Mary Thompson, principal of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Burridge Campus and the Digby Learning Centre.

“This is a unique partnership, a unique learning opportunity because it’s being hosted by a private facility,” she says.

Thirty students who might otherwise learn about the hospitality business and culinary management education in a classroom setting are now getting real-world experience in an establishment that has been serving guests since 1929.

The resort, located in Digby and overlooking the Annapolis Basin, offers spa amenities, golfing and hosts retreats, weddings and more. Bear River First Nation is the lead partner in the group that purchased Digby Pines from the province, along with PacRim Hospitality Services.

“It’s good for the Pines. It’s good for the economy. Hopefully, some of those students will settle in the area,” says Squires.

If the program proves successful, it could accept up to 100 students a year, he says. With many students deciding to stay in accommodations nearby, that represents a significant injection of cash into the local economy, which could always use a boost.

The partnership with the community college, he adds, is only possible since the resort is now open year-round.

Students have six courses per semester; the first semester covers topics such as guest service essentials, food and beverage foundations and introduction to tourism.

“The opportunity is just so great to have students really see that interaction,
whether they’re just observing or shadowing at the front desk or in the restaurant,” says Jacqueline Quigg, a faculty member who works in the program.

The collaborative efforts between the resort and the college extend to on-site teaching spaces, hands-on work experience, as well as providing students with accommodations, transportation, meal plans, part-time work and work placements if needed.

Chief Carol Dee Potter of Bear River First Nation said she hopes the resort will continue to bring benefits to her community and beyond.

Details of the program can be found on the NSCC website at or contact NSCC External Relations Manager Kathleen Cameron at 

Share this

Related stories

Subscribe for monthly updates