Help Wanted: Solutions to Critical Labour Issues Focus at Nova Scotia Event

The Tourism HR Canada team participated in the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) Tourism Summit, held at Halifax’s The Westin Nova Scotian from November 25 to 27.

This year’s event, under the theme Making the Connection, covered a range of key and emerging topics impacting tourism stakeholders. Among these: technological disruption, making tourism accessible to all, the new cannabis legislation, tourism and the environment, and the labour shortage.

Prior to the summit, Tourism HR Canada and the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council invited tourism businesses from across Atlantic Canada to an engaging, interactive session to discuss critical labour issues affecting regional economic development. Existing labour shortages are expected to worsen over the coming years and could be exacerbated if skills mismatches and employment gaps are not addressed. The session supported the development of a competency framework that looks to redress tourism’s skills and labour mismatches.

A competency framework contains all the skills and knowledge required to work in a sector and enables outputs of unique profiles. Tourism HR Canada is developing such a framework, called the Future Skills Framework, which will contain more than just current practice; it will set the standard for proficient practice, be forward looking, and include what will be needed to perform effectively in future. Building a framework relies on significant input from industry to identify the competency areas and skills needed to operate a tourism business today and in the future.

With forty people in attendance, stakeholders discussed emerging skills and HR issues and how to manage the fluctuations in labour needs caused by seasonality in the tourism sector. The three-hour discussion identified many themes, such as how to manage professionalism in an era with greater acceptance of individualism in terms of style of dress and/or body modification and at a time when we increasingly understand that we must be culturally aware of how actions we take for granted will be perceived by travellers from different cultures. Attendees also discussed the growing need to be an effective advocate for the industry, whether by supporting industry associations or speaking directly on behalf of the business community.

On the final day of the summit, Tourism HR Canada’s Vice-President, Labour Market Intelligence, participated in a panel: Help Wanted—Addressing Tourism’s Labour Crisis. Labour shortages are having a severe impact on tourism businesses’ ability to operate. The questions posed to the panel included how operators can take advantage of diverse labour pools, bridge Indigenous workers to tourism jobs, and use immigration programs to meet tourism needs.

The panel discussed the links between labour shortages and programs that could increase the availability of workers by helping to bring immigrants to Canada or helping individuals who require support to enter or re-enter the labour force. While these programs are designed to help mitigate labour shortages, attendees noted that businesses can find them difficult to mange, especially in rural areas, where the labour market is tapped out and fewer services are available. When people who want to work in the industry are all but non-existent, operators find it difficult to manage these types of programs.

At the same time, delegates noted the need to help connect people to the labour force, leading to discussion on Destination Employment, which will help newcomers gain meaningful employment in Canadian hotels. The program is coordinated by Tourism HR Canada and the Hotel Association of Canada and being delivered in Atlantic Canada by the Nova Scotia Human Resource Council. Destination Employment seeks to mitigate the concerns expressed by operators by providing pre-employment language training and skills training to newcomers while also providing mentorship training and support for the businesses. Dependant on results, the pilot could be rolled out to address labour issues in other regions or industries. Feedback and data collected during the pilot will ultimately help programs of this type effectively link employers and those seeking employment.