The Destination Employment program prepares newcomers to Canada for jobs in the accommodations industry—an industry in which employers were often desperately seeking skilled staff to welcome the rapidly growing number of visitors across the country. And then, leading into the final year of the three-year pilot, the pandemic hit.
Regional partners were quick to assess and report back on the impacts of COVID-19 in their area.
Amidst plummeting hotel occupancy rates, closures, and staff reductions, the program sought ways to offer alternative support for its participants—those taking in-class training and those looking to apply their skills.
In-class sessions were cancelled as emergency measures were implemented. Where possible, these were wrapped up remotely. Partners then provided one-on-one support, checking in with Destination Employment graduates and participating employers. They helped newcomers navigate financial support, connected them with free online training, and gauged their needs and the impact of changes to the program.
Efforts then began to move ahead with programming, albeit in different forms.
- In Ottawa, the YMCA moved forward with online information sessions for interested newcomers.
- In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), ACCES Employment was able to adjust its traditional programming and get an online cohort enrolled by end of May; all graduated with important workplace knowledge and employability skills.
- The Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC) partnered with Metro Works in Halifax to provide online program orientation in multiple languages for the benefit of newcomers with lower English levels.
- The Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council (STEC) successfully planned and launched a kitchen helper focused cohort, with both online training and a practical component organized to maintain required physical distancing. STEC is also looking at expansion of the Destination Employment program into rural areas.
- In Kingston, the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC) and local partners are finalizing plans to help newcomers displaced as a result of the pandemic by reaching back out and offering additional training.
Across the country, Destination Employment partners are exploring new opportunities to facilitate access to technology and build the required digital literacy skills to succeed in online learning.
At the national level, Tourism HR Canada is determining how to highlight the transferable skills imparted through the hospitality-focused Destination Employment training, support the displaced workforce, and build connections with program alumni. The organization has initiated meetings with Service Delivery Improvements (SDI) recipients in similar category as Destination Employment. This will promote partnerships, explore opportunities, and share lessons and resources developed over the course of the project. Although no formal partnerships have been established, conversations are moving forward to explore available opportunities.
For more information on the Destination Employment program, including to access the free online Hospitality Essentials courses, please visit destinationemployment.ca.