By Ezra Black
To become an ambassador to an overseas country, you might need a long civil service career, a deep understanding of foreign affairs and the right political connections.
To become a Fernie ambassador, you need four hours, 10 bucks and a willingness to learn about the community.
Both positions are good for your professional development, says Fernie Ambassador Program instructor Christine Grimble, but her graduates get swag bags.
Since its introduction in October 2015 over 200 people have become Fernie Ambassadors.
The Fernie Ambassador Program is open to all residents of the Fernie area. It was conceived about a year ago by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce and is taught at the College of the Rockies.
It is designed to encourage awareness of local businesses, community resources and recreation opportunities. Graduates are left with deeper insights into the community, which they can pass on to visitors.
On Dec. 11, Grimble was teaching the program to seven students.
“They were looking for someone who could facilitate the program,” she said. “I’m really passionate about people and I love connecting and communicating.”
She said a big part of the program focuses on giving graduates better customer service skills, which makes Fernie Ambassadors more desirable to current or future employers.
“We’ve had a lot of people who just arrived in the community take the program and it is something they can put on their resumes,” said Grimble. “People who are actively searching for jobs can go to their employer and say they know about Fernie.”
The program consists of four hours of classroom work. The syllabus includes a number of life skills a person might need to thrive in Fernie. Ambassadors are taught about local history including the legend of Mount Hosmer’s Ghostrider and the community’s coal mining roots.
They’re also given a backgrounder on the local arts and sports scene, tools to access community resources and an overview of local business offerings. Ambassadors are also taught about local housing opportunities and winter safety tips.
Grimble said it is not all classroom work. Her students take to the town to learn about the historical main street and library, which she called an oft-overlooked resource.
“If you’re living with six roommates, it’s a beautiful and quiet place to go,” she said.
Grimble has been a Fernie resident for almost 12 years. She came “mostly for the mountains and the skiing,” but has stayed to raise a family because of its strong sense of community.
“And that is what has kept us,” she said. “Aside from the broad scenic appeal.”
The business community is endorsing the Ambassador program. All Fernie Ambassadors have access to exclusive discounts on a bunch of local activities, restaurants and retail stores. The discounts are issued via the Fernie Ambassador App. They also receive a certificate and free local products.
The program is taught intermittently throughout the year and costs $10. The next session is on Jan. 11 from 2 to 6 p.m. You can preregister through the College of the Rockies but there is a maximum of 20 participants per session, so book early.