Forward Together: Key Insights Shared at Labour Market Forum

Industry leaders across the country recently met to share their insights on the next steps for tourism’s recovery and growth. Tourism HR Canada hosted nearly 100 tourism stakeholders—from businesses to associations, education to government—at its annual Labour Market Forum.

This unique event is a key opportunity to engage all sides of the tourism sector on current and emerging workforce issues. Featured speakers provide an overview on major thematic areas and offer specific factors to consider. Delegates then spend significant time working in small groups to reflect on the information, share their ideas and perspectives, and learn about opportunities for collaboration.

The outcomes help to shape strategic planning and programs to support the development of a diverse, inclusive, and skilled tourism workforce.

This year’s event welcomed Senator Karen Sorensen, who spoke about her passion for the tourism sector and her advocacy work for the recovery and regeneration of tourism across Canada, and Rachel Bendayan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, who highlighted her commitment to the tourism sector and finding sustainable solutions to recovery and growth.

Mental health advocate Allan Kehler provided an interactive keynote address, leading the group through activities to explore their biases and providing meaningful actions delegates can implement to create a “culture of care”.

Olha Zubco, a displaced person from Ukraine, captivated the audience as she described her journey to Canada and the welcoming workplace she found at d3h Hotels. Jesse Tiefenbach, d3h Hotels’ Chief Human Resources Officer, spoke about how the group has implemented practices and policies to weave diversity and inclusion into all aspects of their hotels, and Jim Bence, Hospitality Saskatchewan President and CEO, detailed the organization’s work with the provincial government to mobilize industry support for settlement and employment for Ukrainian displaced persons.

Six overarching points reflect the two days’ outputs:

Below are some of this year’s themes along with many of the insights brought up by the delegates:

Help Wanted: Labour Market in Crisis

Tourism’s unique value proposition:

  • Incredible opportunities for everyone; something for everyone and every lifestyle; endless career/professional growth opportunities
  • Never been a better time to enter the industry as a first job or as a career

Challenges and barriers:

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Wage disparity (inability to compete with other sectors in some markets)
  • Burdensome and hard-to-navigate immigration system
  • Protracted poor working conditions because of COVID

Research, supports, initiatives, or investments to support an increase in recruitment and retention:

  • Career pathways
  • Immigration policies
  • Investments in training

Creative benefits to help with attraction and retention:

  • Better scheduling; more balanced scheduling; predictable scheduling
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Childcare organized by employer
  • Transportation organized by employer
  • Signing bonuses; retention bonuses; referral bonuses
  • Mental health supports

Exploring Strategies to Attract and Retain Talent

  • Build a dedicated immigration stream for tourism to include all levels of occupations, eliminating language barriers, with easy access by both employers and workers
  • Provide government-funded customized support to tourism employers on navigating government immigration programs and information via one-on-one support, training, and/or webinars
  • Enhance language training for job seekers and existing workers to help them integrate into workplaces successfully
  • Diversify employers’ hiring channels by connecting with community organizations serving equity-deserving groups
  • Provide employers with training on diversity, equity, and inclusion to help them build inclusive workplaces
  • Establish essential infrastructure across communities, such as affordable housing and childcare, transportation, etc., to retain new hires
  • Implement an inclusive campaign to promote the image of tourism sector as a destination of employment for newcomers by using inclusive and diverse languages and images
  • Understanding the difference between Indigenous communities and Indigenous tourism industry
  • Strategy must be Indigenous-led
  • Strategy needs to be tailored to the highly diverse Indigenous communities and entrepreneurial interests; need a common framework to inform tailored plans
  • Relationship building
  • Cultural awareness training on a leadership level
  • Cultural accommodations
  • Emphasis on employer, i.e., training, supports
  • Need smart campaign—real jobs and real opportunities
  • Need to manage expectations of employers
  • Mental health needs to be built into the plans

Future Skills

Key skills needed for today’s management environment:

  • Business skills: finance, research/data, HR, operations, strategic planning
  • Empathy, communications, leadership
  • De-escalating skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Digital knowledge
  • Cultural competencies

Addressing skills gaps at the management level:

  • Succession plans
  • Transfer credits for post-secondary institutions (domestic and international)
  • Redefine ‘what is service’, i.e., relationship building and creating experiences
  • Gap analysis
  • Mentorship, peer-to-peer
  • Human resources

Reshaping post-secondary programming:

  • Incentives for foreign students to stay in Canada
  • Improved education pathways
  • Build reputation of schools to rival Switzerland or US
  • More apprenticeship-like models

To further explore the wealth of information shared at the Labour Market Forum, the presentation decks are now available for download.

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