Engage en·gage | \ in-ˈgāj , en-\transitive verb
1: to offer (something…) as backing to a cause or aim… to expose to risk for the attainment or support of some end (Merriam-Webster)
WORKFORCE. Whenever you hear this word now among our industry it seems attached to another word, “lack.” Lack of recruits. Lack of skills. Lack of commitment.
Is this situation hopeless? It may seem that way to those who have not yet engaged in the myriad of ways hospitality industry partners have become involved in addressing these ‘lack of’ challenges. A few examples of partnerships ORLAEF is involved with may be inspirational!
RECRUITING AND BUILDING A PIPELINE Oregon has more than 3,000 high school students involved with ProStart. Without industry involvement and encouragement to pursue foodservice careers, the result of these students’ experience in the two-year culinary and management program could be just the memory of a fun elective course and a personal skill-builder. In many states, however, this foodservice career exploration program has become an effective pipeline for future employees.
How to engage? For example, Sysco Portland realized that its foodservice clients cannot succeed without a healthy workforce, and so have made supporting ProStart and other culinary training programs a top priority via sponsorship, mentorship, and scholarships! Learn more about their ideas by listening to a recent Boiled Down podcast, #22-The Future Workforce, at OregonRLA.org/podcast.
Engagement can take many forms. Think about an adult that inspired you, a teacher, an employer, a coach—today’s youth need mentors just as much, if not more, than previous generations. I asked Irina Bakun, a former ProStart student herself, culinary school graduate, and chef why she volunteered to mentor students who were planning to compete in our state competition. Her response was enlightening as she noted the positive effects not only for the students, but for herself.
“Working with high school students is exciting. They keep you on your feet, they really test your knowledge and communication methods. A surprising by-product is that mentoring helped me polish my training skills. From personal experience as a ProStart student on a team that had a mentor, I know firsthand that the more students are engaged with professionals the better they can understand the demands of a professional schedule, what working in a kitchen is like and the skills they will be expected to have when they leave the classroom and enter the restaurant industry. Working together can forge a meaningful bond that can create rewarding lifelong relationships,” Irina explained. “Recently, a student that I mentored three years ago called and asked for a reference. It was great to hear he was still cooking and fact that I was still on his radar and he wanted my opinion and support!”
BUILDING SKILLS “Hire for attitude, train for skill” is a popular adage. Perhaps it feels more challenging when the pipeline feels dry, however. Going to the source, worksource agencies that is, may help. Kristin and Drew Roslund, owners of the Overleaf Lodge & Spa, took a leadership role by engaging with ORLAEF and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association to create a pilot training program targeting to unemployed residents in Lincoln County. The program uses internationally accredited skill-building curriculum to help participants better qualify and prepare for work in the hospitality industry. Scholarships, funded through Travel Oregon, also pay for participants to earn their certifications as Certified Guest Service Professionals, one of our industry’s most important skills.
In Portland, Travel Portland is also seeking to take an active role in helping stakeholders with workforce challenges and invited ORLAEF to exhibit at a recent Opportunity Youth Job Fair. One result, thanks to funding from Worksystems, Inc. in Portland, is that 200 youth took ORLA’s food handler course and are now applying for jobs! Worksystems is also now committing to using the Guest Service Gold Tourism training curriculum for the hundreds of youth who are seeking skills and jobs that it serves.
INCREASING EMPLOYEE COMMITMENT Decreasing turnover can have a big effect on the bottom line. ORLAEF was curious about best practices being used in Oregon that were having a positive effective on employee satisfaction which tracked to increased commitment and retention. We commissioned OSU Hospitality Management Department’s research team to do a study to identify and interview companies that we're seeing results from innovative programs. These practices, captured via video interviews, are encouraging. Employee engagement tactics range from offering soft-side benefits, to supporting associate wellness programs, to nurturing a family-friendly company culture, to sharing leadership roles. Become inspired by viewing these videos at OregonRLA.org/workforcepractices.
Albert Einstein is widely known with the quote,“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Tired of the hearing the same workforce “lack of” words? Engage with ORLA’s Education Foundation as we seek to support innovative solutions to our industry’s workforce challenges. | Wendy Popkin
Wendy Popkin is the Executive Director for ORLA’s Education Foundation (ORLAEF), a nonprofit foundation dedicated to supporting the educational and training needs of the hospitality industry. Wendy is a 30+-year career veteran who describes herself as “fanatically enthusiastic about helping others enjoy the same type of fabulous career opportunities I have enjoyed in the hospitality industry.” www.OregonRLA.org/EdFoundation