Solving the Skills Mismatch: New Project to Link Tourism Employers and Job-Seekers

Over the past decade, tourism has emerged as an important economic driver and job creator in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. The province welcomes over half a million non-resident visitors annually. There were 20,000 jobs in tourism industries in the province in 2015.

As tourism continues to grow, more jobs will be created to keep up with demand, but a significant number of these jobs are projected to go unfilled under current labour market conditions. Yet Newfoundland and Labrador had an unemployment rate of 13.4 in 2016 and has been among the provinces with the highest unemployment rate for many years.

This presents a situation where we have a sector with jobs to fill and people without jobs. How do we bridge the gap? To answer this question, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and Tourism HR Canada are undertaking a three-year project aimed at reskilling unemployed and underemployed workers for jobs in tourism. The initiative is supported by the NL Workforce Innovation Centre’s Research and Innovation Program.

The project is centred on a key research question, “Will reskilling for tourism allow unemployed workers from non-tourism industries to enter the tourism labour force and support the development and expansion of a destination’s tourism product offering?”

First, project coordinators will identify rural communities with significant potential to grow their tourism sector but that also have high unemployment or low labour force participation. Next, coordinators will identify and recruit locals who are interested in a tourism career but may require training. Potential trainees will be recruited from the community and assessed to determine the exact skill upgrading they require to work in tourism. This research will deliver a baseline assessment of leaner skills and knowledge, which can be compared with post-training assessments.

The assessment will also determine the needs of local businesses and the community in general, examining current training activities and budgets, training priorities, and the levels of local and in-house support.

The business and trainee needs analysis will be followed by the adaptation and delivery of training, to be conducted in two cohorts—in the spring of 2018 and 2019, respectively. The training model will focus on growing tourism businesses through product development, training employers and supervisors to actively support the needs of learners, and ensuring they have the skills to continue to enhance their workforce beyond the boundaries of this project.

Individual learners requiring it will receive pre-employment tourism training, then be placed with an employer, with ongoing support for both the learner and the employer. Those who do not require pre-employment training will be placed directly in employment with an on-the-job assessment from which a self-directed training curriculum will be created based on their specific needs.

This program presents an opportunity to boost economic development, increase the tourism labour force and help those seeking work find jobs. Beyond that, it is also an opportunity to assess the efficacy of the training program itself, as it includes the ongoing assessment of learners, employers and the community at three-, six- and twelve-month intervals.

Should this initiative prove successful, and depending on available resources, the project could be replicated in other areas of Canada where there is a skills mismatch between available labour and tourism job vacancies. This would help alleviate some of the current concerns about national labour shortages impeding the growth and competitiveness of Canada’s tourism sector.

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