[Editorial originally printed in the Spring Issue of the ORLA Magazine]
We heard it time and time again on the road as ORLA staff met with members across the state for our latest round of regional meetings – ‘we don’t have enough staff.’
And although we have heard since conditions are slightly improving for some, we still hear more about challenges than triumphs with it comes to recruitment efforts. If it gives you some comfort the hospitality industry is clearly not alone. It has been rare this past year to find an industry content with the number of workers they have to meet consumer demand. The reality is we face more competition for fewer people as industry leaders work to focus on attributes unique to their fields. We recently heard there are roughly six million people still looking for a job in the country and approximately two job openings for each one of those unemployed workers.
We have unique attributes in hospitality. Especially when it comes to meeting a moment like the one we face today. Those of us serving on Oregon’s Hospitality Foundation Board of Directors would tell you our industry is most likely the largest untapped private sector partner for essential skills development in our youth. In a way, the hospitality industry is primed to serve as a type of antidote to the lost development time triggered by Covid. Whether you stick with our industry as a career or utilize the industry to develop skills and launch into a different field, hospitality remains a valuable partner in preparing our youth for the world of work.
You would be hard pressed to find someone in your life that doesn’t have stories of how a hospitality job helped shape their identity. What used to be referred to as soft skills by workforce development leaders are now rightfully named essential skills. And these skills, including professional behaviors like personalizing a customer’s experience and exhibiting passion for your role, are taught every day in hospitality businesses.
The work of ORLA’s Hospitality Foundation is focused on recruiting more high schools to take up culinary and hospitality/tourism management programming for kids. The Foundation, thanks to the work of Executive Coordinator Courtney Smith, is coming off a successful ProStart competition. High Schools with both culinary and management programming have the opportunity every year to compete in the annual Oregon ProStart Championships.
In addition, ORLA is working to connect lodging and restaurant members with the Oregon Department of Education as they undertake an update to skills standards for high schools with culinary, hospitality, and tourism-oriented classes. Several ORLA members have answered the call to be a part of this important working group.
And lastly, one of our 16 team members on the ORLA staff works full time to build bridges between educators and industry operators one tourism region at a time. Lupe Arellano is here to help you connect with local high school and community college educators to tell your hospitality story as a guest speaker. We are also elevating opportunities for members to participate in job and career fairs. Both Lupe and Courtney recently attended the NW Youth Careers Expo at the Oregon Convention Center which brought thousands of prospective employees to one event for interested employers. Events like this should be elevated amongst members struggling to find the employees they need to sustain business operations. Lupe’s work is focused along Oregon’s coastline this year with additional focus coming to the Willamette Valley and the Portland Metro region in the next few years in partnership with Travel Oregon.
If you are experiencing a need for additional employees, I hope you will take a moment to introduce yourself to these key staff. Both Lupe and Courtney are well positioned to help make connections for our members that can help relieve workforce shortage pain points as we work to address the number one challenge facing the industry. | Jason Brandt, President & CEO, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association