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Tourism HR Canada was pleased to be invited to the Parliamentary Tourism Caucus to present our projections on available labour in tourism through to the year 2035.

More than 20 Members of Parliament and Senators attended the April 25th session, which focused on labour issues impacting tourism’s growth and competitiveness.

The projections included the effect of the federal government’s new immigration intake levels. While the new, higher immigration numbers will have a positive impact on the total number of workers the industry will need to meet the anticipated labour shortage, a shortfall of 60,000 is still projected.

Tourism HR Canada then presented a brief outline of its Action Plan, coming out of the very successful annual Labour Market Forum held in Ottawa in March. Key amongst the Action Plan priorities are:

  • Reinforce the value proposition of tourism
  • Improve coordination on labour market research and analysis
  • Develop and engage the Indigenous workforce and seek resources to launch a comprehensive strategy to do so
  • Develop more policies and programs aimed at helping the sector address labour market shortages

Tourism HR Canada was joined by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC), and the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA) in presenting a current snapshot of the tourism sector and its priorities.

All stakeholders in attendance upheld the need for federal policies that support immigration streams that meet the skills and labour market demands crucial to the continued growth in the sector and that provide a path to permanent residency. Additionally, all participants called for support for federally funded capacity and skills development programs which prioritize the tourism sector.

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Since It’s Your Shift launched in the fall of 2017, more than 4,000 tourism and hospitality workers have participated in this training to combat sexual harassment and violence in hospitality operations in Ontario.

While the four modules for employees and one for managers are available online, the accompanying Manager Workshop and Manager Toolkit were developed to encourage in-person training and discussion. These resources will guide owners/operators through providing managerial staff with additional resources, techniques, and templates that will assist them in implementing and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for employees and guests alike.

The Manager Workshop can be accessed free of charge here; it includes a Facilitator Guide, Participant Guide, and a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation to help managers learn the best way to integrate and sustain some of the guiding principles and practices presented in the training.

This flexible workshop can be administered before or after a business has had its employees register or engage in the It’s Your Shift online program. It offers managers a range of supports that can be planned and implemented no matter what the status of training of staff going through the online modules.

When disaster or tragedy strike, local businesses are often eager to assist, providing help with immediate needs and ongoing healing. Tourism and hospitality businesses are particularly well poised to make an impact, as accommodation and food are often two urgent necessities for those affected and for emergency services personnel and volunteers.

After April’s tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash, several area hotels offered free stays to those affected. Such a generous offer comes with important considerations:

  • Are staff members prepared to assist grieving families and friends?
  • Are there enough staff members available to help with the increased needs?
  • Are any staff members themselves affected? Will they need time off and/or counselling?
  • Which amenities are helpful? Which are not?
  • How can a business get word out to those who need the help or those who want to help, without seeming to capitalize on the tragedy?
  • How can local management coordinate an offer for help with a parent company?
  • How can (or should) a business make sure a guest’s need for help is genuine, such as asking for proof of residence?
  • How long should an offer remain available?
  • How can staff continue to serve current or imminent patrons?

As reported by Canadian Lodging News, the Travelodge Saskatoon followed several steps to ensure their guests were treated with the utmost care. Employees were provided with training to interact with guests as delicately as possible. A conference room was set aside for people to have a communal space in which to gather. Media were turned away. A mental health service was called to offer support.

Natural disasters have also led to similar offers to help. Hotels in areas affected by the wildfires in BC (2017) and Fort McMurray and surrounding communities (2016) were quick to provide discounted rooms to evacuees and out-of-town emergency crews. Restaurants donated meals. West Jet and Air Canada offered discounted rates and flexible cancellation policies. Businesses far and wide ran fundraisers to help the victims.

The attacks at a music festival in Las Vegas, the Boston Marathon, or tourist hotspots such as Nice and Barcelona, all highlight the importance of tourism businesses ensuring all staff have basic training in the event of a local incident—being able to provide an immediate safe space to tourists and locals involved, and then staying involved as it becomes clear what help is needed.

How can you ensure your business is prepared to help?

Provide training: All staff should know whom to call and what local resources are available in the event of any type of emergency. Onboarding should include an overview of how best to interact with anyone seeking help in a crisis. Have printed resources readily accessible, in case power is affected. Should an incident arise, provide more in-depth training specific to the crisis—pull in experts, such as grief counsellors, as needed.

Access local expertise: Ask emergency services how your business can best be of service, contact volunteer groups to see if they need specific items or resources, tap into counselling services to ask about dos and don’ts.

Be genuine: When a Halifax-area franchisee of a national chain advertised green and gold donuts to honour victims of the Humboldt crash, it was revealed that the proceeds were not going to the fund for the team. The incident was later clarified, but the reputational damage was done. Make sure everyone recognizes this is an opportunity to give back to the community, not an opportunity to drum up sales.

Contribute in a meaningful way: If community organizations announce they are overwhelmed with clothing donations for evacuees, look at ways to help organize or distribute the donations, such as freeing up a meeting room to sort the goods or providing paid time off for staff members to assist.

Follow up: A community will not heal as soon as emergency personnel head home. Blood drives, fundraisers, and commemorative events all make sure the affected parties do not feel forgotten and maintain a positive relationship with the community. Be sure to also check in with your staff—keep the lines of communication open to see if anyone needs help working through the emotions of being part of a crisis.

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In this, the fourth installment of “milestone” articles celebrating our 25 years as the voice of the tourism labour market, we look at programs that have provided thousands of Canadians with the entry-to-practice skills training required to work in a variety of tourism operations.

The first national program focused on preparing unemployed and underemployed Canadian youth for employment in the tourism sector was called Tourism Careers for Youth (TCFY)—it launched in 1994.

This integral program assisted Tourism HR Canada in addressing a key component of its mandate: attracting an increasing number of young people to consider the sector as one where they could have a successful and rewarding career. Aided by strong support from the federal government, Tourism Careers for Youth had great uptake across the country, with each region adding training components, like WHMIS and First Aid, to address specific priorities within their jurisdiction.

Propelled by the positive response, between 1994 and 2002 the program expanded to more regions and adapted to address specific labour market needs. This eventually led to the adoption of a new brand, Ready-to-Work (RTW), and the roll out of a new three-year contract (2002-2005) with the federal government.

Program Components Common Across Jurisdictions

  • Pre-employment classroom training: Instructor-led learning, including career planning, transferable skills, and occupational-specific technical skills
  • Workplace training: On-the-job, occupation-specific training from a workplace trainer, plus mentorship and feedback
  • Work placement: Participants attain gainful employment in an entry-level tourism occupation

With the new program in place, Tourism HR Canada worked closely with its network of provincial/territorial partners to strengthen the program while still ensuring a flexible application. Some of the key attributes that changed over this time included:

1.      Criteria for who was eligible to enroll in the program: The age limit for TCFY went from 27 when the program started to 30 at the time of the rebranding, and eventually it was eliminated altogether. Part of the impetus for the re-branding was the removal of “Youth” in the program title, since it was now available to a much larger pool of candidates.

2.      Expanded number of stakeholder groups accessing the program: Based on the labour market needs in different parts of Canada, specific demographic cohorts were accommodated and components of the program adapted to work for:

  • New Canadians
  • Indigenous Canadians
  • Young Canadians
  • At-risk youth
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Career changers

3.      Additional pre-employment learning content: With the introduction of new training resources like Emerit’s Workplace Essentials and Canadian Workplace Essentials, the RTW program benefitted by offering more comprehensive pre-employment training that included: entry-level and essential skill acquisition, language skills for ESL participants, cross-cultural awareness, communication skills, and career planning.

4.      Commitment of employers for job placement stage: Over the life of the RTW program, expectations for employers taking on participants for the “on-the-job” component were refined and codified. Employers were also supplied with training supports (including training materials) to assist in further training participants in the workplace.

While national funding for the RTW program ended in 2013, the model has endured, and the program still operates in some jurisdictions by tapping into regional and municipal funding.

Since its introduction, the TCFY/RTW program succeeded in providing job prep training, on-the-job training, and job placements for over 25,000 Canadians from incredibly diverse demographic profiles. Additionally, more than 4,000 of the individuals completing the program went on to earn a national credential, obtaining Emerit Professional Certification in occupations like Housekeeping, Front Desk, Food & Beverage Service/Bartending, Line Cook, and Heritage Interpretation.

Over its lifetime, the TCFY/RTW program provided a path to participation in the workforce to thousands of Canadians looking for work, also helping employers looking for qualified staff. Years of innovation, refinement, and built-in flexibility became the hallmark of RTW, and the program philosophy and various components continue to find their way into new programming and new labour market initiatives.

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Annually, Tourism HR Canada brings together 60 or more industry representatives from across Canada from all tourism sectors.

This year’s event was held in Ottawa in March, with the heads of national associations, employers, academia, senior representatives from the provincial/territorial tourism human resource organizations, various interest groups, and government officials participating in two days focused on discussing prevailing tourism labour market issues.

The key outcomes and identified priorities of the Forum are used to inform a ‘Tourism Labour Action Plan’.

Four priority action items were identified for 2018. We delve into each below, and will of course provide regular updates though HR Insider and our website.

Action Item #1: Reinforce value proposition beyond economic benefits, with a focus on social capital and cohesion, and promotion of multiculturalism and Canadian identity.

Action Item #2: Improve coordination on labour market research and analysis, building on existing initiatives and avoiding duplication.

Action Item #3: Reinforce the priority of the development and engagement of an Indigenous workforce; focus on seeking resources to launch a comprehensive strategy.

Action Item #4: Develop more strategies to inform policy and programs aimed at helping the sector address labour market shortages.

Reinforce value proposition beyond economic benefits, with a focus on social capital and cohesion, and promotion of multiculturalism and Canadian identity.

Tourism HR Canada has often used the statement “Tourism is vital to Canada’s economy; it is a key driver of socio-economic progress” to help distinguish the sector over others facing labour shortages.

Current data shows how investing in tourism is good business. All sizes of businesses, governments, and communities benefit from stable revenue-generating and employment prospects. In many cases, tourism has transformed local economies, enabling them to recover from sectors that have diminished or been wiped out.

Forum participants carefully considered what distinguished tourism over other sectors, making it a great destination for employment and career prospects—and further reinforcing why increased investment by governments and businesses will be lucrative.

Their thoughts?

  • Tourism is a main contributor to culture and heritage. It has a highly diversified workforce—much more so than most other economic sectors—and employs many people in their first Canadian job. Tourism operators invest in training to enable people to gain the language skills, Canadian workplace experience, and job-related skills that enable them to enter the workforce.
  • Tourism is well known for responsible environmental management or stewardship. The product or service offer from many tourism businesses is based on a sustainable business development model. Tourism businesses factor in land use planning and conservation, waste reduction, and being eco-efficient to help reduce ecological impacts. For many, their reputation and the very ‘experience’ they offer capitalizes on the fact that they are environmental stewards.
  • Tourism contributes to political stability. Scholars have long studied how tourism is a means for political and ideological goals. For example, Edgell (1990) asserts that “the highest purpose of tourism policy is to integrate the economic, political, cultural, and intellectual benefits of tourism cohesively with people, destinations, and countries to improve global quality of life and provide a foundation for peace and prosperity.” In many ways, the Canadian tourism brand is built on a reputation of political stability and its safe and secure conditions.
  • Consequently, tourism is synonymous with Canada’s identity. It embodies the very values or ideals that define the Canadian culture.

Labour Market Forum participants were asked to provide one “persuasive statement that reinforces tourism’s unique value proposition”. Many ideas were presented. Below are a few examples for each of the key stakeholder groups:

  1. Funding agencies, governments and policy stakeholders:
    • Tourism Builds Canada
    • #TourismMatters
  2. Job seekers:
    • Tourism is a life experiencelive your dream.
    • Careers in tourism take you places.
    • We make good times happen.
  3. Parents, guidance counsellors, and other influencers:
    • You can do anything in tourism.
    • Life skills and experiences that take you places.

Participants also discussed ways to better coordinate and communicate the value proposition, with the aim of working towards a common, cohesive message.

Improve coordination on labour market research and analysis, building on existing initiatives and avoiding duplication.

Forum participants identified labour market research and analysis as imperative to the sector’s success.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) supports Tourism HR Canada’s labour market research initiatives, recognizing them as one of Canada’s “foundational labour market forecasting systems”.

This funding enables Tourism HR Canada to serve its stakeholders (such as businesses, academia, governments, and industry associations) by providing timely and tailored labour market information, including:

  • demographic stats
  • salary trends
  • supply/demand projections
  • provincial/territorial labour data

The funding also provides resources to help conduct regional labour market studies and other forms of labour market consultation, and specialized analysis.

Tourism HR Canada’s Strategic Plan highlights labour market intelligence (LMI) as the first ‘Performance Pillar’. The organization strives to be the “the most reliable source of labour market information, data and analysis for the well-informed tourism professional”.

The plan goes on to assert: “Tourism HR Canada plays an integral role in the collection, contextualization, and dissemination of accurate and timely labour market intelligence. Businesses and institutions can use the national and regional data and analyses to make informed, strategic decisions about the supply and demand of labour, training trends, compensation rates and practices, and demographic characteristics of the labour pool.”

The demand for regional and tailored labour market research is growing. In the last year alone, Tourism HR Canada has worked with industry groups and governments on focused research in Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, Banff, Cape Breton, and New Brunswick. National associations and others have asked for specialized data. Groundbreaking studies lead by industry associations such as go2HR in British Columbia and research conducted by the Conference Board and other interest groups illustrate the demand for increasingly more tailored information, and the need for further types of data.

A key outcome of the Forum was a call for increased coordination of LMI, reducing the duplication of efforts and leveraging of resources, where possible.

Tourism HR Canada committed to further facilitating, coordinating, and enabling tourism labour market research, including:

  • collecting methodologies
  • serving as a repository for current studies
  • assisting groups with survey or research design
  • helping disseminate information

Reinforce the priority of the development and engagement of an Indigenous workforce; focus on seeking resources to launch a comprehensive strategy.

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) has been working with Tourism HR Canada for two years, singularly focused on mounting a pan-Canadian strategy aimed at increasing the number of well paying, sustainable Indigenous tourism jobs and better positioning Canada as a destination for quality Indigenous tourism experiences.

This year’s Forum ignited a passionate discussion on the need to remain steadfastly focused on developing a strategy and seeking funding to engage the Indigenous workforce.

Although the tourism sector has a higher percentage of Indigenous workers than the Canadian workforce overall, it only accounts for 3.5% of our workforce, and the unemployment rate of Indigenous people is nearly double (excluding people living on-reserve) that of the Canadian population overall.

Tourism is an opportunity for employment and for investment by Indigenous entrepreneurs, especially at a time when the demand for Indigenous tourism experiences far outstrips capacity.

ITAC and Tourism HR Canada will enlist in the broad support of the sector to mount a strategy and will continue to work with partners to help communicate with governments on the urgency and gravity of the matter.

Primary aims of their joint project include:

  • Increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Indigenous tourism businesses
  • Contributing to the increase of well paying, stable jobs through the development of new products and services, and by attracting, training, and retaining Indigenous workers in Indigenous tourism businesses
  • Improving the human capital practices of Indigenous tourism employers
  • Strengthening partnerships and building capacity with service providers and labour market partners

Develop more strategies to inform policy and programs aimed at helping the sector address labour market shortages.

The success of the industry is contingent on addressing longstanding labour and skills issues.

Tourism, like many other industries, is finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain qualified workers, and the challenge extends beyond Canada. Despite record numbers of visitors, tourism’s growth will be increasingly hampered if the sector lacks the skilled individuals capable of offering the transformative experiences today’s tourists seek.

A targeted skills and workforce development strategy is crucial. Businesses, organizations, governments, and the education sector need improved workforce planning strategies, along with the resources, appropriate support mechanisms, and capacity to implement them.

The Forum identified the need for further strategies to address the chronic shortage of workers and preparing for even greater shortages over the next decade.

A sense of urgency fueled views that the industry had to continue to be proactive and increase the engagement of people who have not traditionally been engaged or employed.

The discussions built on the five outcomes or recommendations from the previous Labour Market Forum:

  • Improved investments by governments and employers: investments need to go beyond infrastructure and marketing. Funds towards workforce planning, detailed studies, and coordination should be a priority.
  • Boost productivity: increased incentives and smart funding to enable employers to invest in training and skills development and improved human capital practices.
  • Increase heterogeneity/further diversify the workforce: increase participation of under-represented groups—in particular, Indigenous peoples, refugees, and immigrants.
  • Increase immigration and improve mobility: favourable immigration policies that support the talent supply required by tourism; increased flexibility and improved efficiency.
  • Transform education and training: programs better fit to employment needs; more responsive to demand; broad-based skills development; product development and managerial skills development.

Look for further actions as we continue to engage with tourism stakeholders across the country and proceed with our labour market initiatives.

Earlier this month, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and Tourism HR Canada (THRC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that leverages the strengths of both national organizations to better meet the needs of tourism operators and employers across the country.

TIAC brings its proven track record as a strong advocate of Canadian tourism businesses, promoting and supporting policies, programs, and activities that lead to sectoral growth, development, and global competitiveness.

THRC brings 25 years’ expertise on labour market research, training, and credentialing, supplying tourism businesses with the resources and analyses to plan for and overcome HR challenges.

While the two national bodies have worked closely together for over two decades, this MOU formalizes some existing practices and offers new reciprocal activities.

A key component of the agreement sees the two organizations presenting an integrated approach in disseminating crucial labour market data to as broad a tourism audience as possible. Look for:

  • coordinated messaging to all stakeholders
  • co-branded research and labour market data distributed to both organizations’ audiences

Additionally, TIAC members will now have free access to labour market summary reports, as well as a 20% discount on the fee to access THRC’s Rapid ReSearch platform and Emerit training and certification products, all available through THRC’s learning management system, emerit.ca.

Tourism HR Canada will benefit from the large audience and distribution network that TIAC has grown, allowing greater dissemination of timely, accurate, and critically important labour market information needed by all tourism operators in Canada.

Both organizations will continue to seek innovative ways to support one another, all the while making sure they are collectively providing Canada’s tourism sector with the resources, advocacy, and shared vision to foster growth.

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