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Innovative Workforce Solutions to Help the Hospitality Industry Address Hiring, Training, and Retention Challenges

In June 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced a series of investments totaling more than $2 million to address the workforce needs of the hospitality industry. These investments result from forums which the U.S. Department of Labor hosted over the past year with industry leaders, educators, and the public workforce system to identify the industry's hiring, training, and retention challenges.

DOL has sought to understand and implement industry-identified strategies to confront critical workforce challenges. It has listened to employers, representatives from industry associations, and other stakeholders in the hospitality industry regarding their efforts to identify challenges and implement effective workforce strategies. However, the challenges they face are too complex for one organization to solve alone. DOL's Employment and Training Administration is supporting comprehensive partnerships that include employers, the public workforce system, and other entities that have developed innovative approaches that address the workforce needs of business while also effectively helping workers find good jobs with good wages and promising career pathways in the hospitality industry.

This set of workforce solutions is based on the hospitality industry's priorities that address issues such as:

  • Image: Like other service sectors, hospitality careers are often stereotyped as low-wage and entry-level with little opportunity for advancement. Consequently, qualified workers, especially youth, are unaware the range of hospitality careers available.
  • Recruitment: Historically the hospitality industry had drawn heavily from the youth labor pool to meet their workforce needs, but in recent the industry has been left with an insufficient pipeline of new workers to satisfy demand. Faced with a shrinking pipeline of workers, the hospitality industry is increasing its recruitment efforts towards youth and developing targeted strategies for previously untapped labor pools.
  • Retention: High turnover is a key challenge in the hospitality industry. The restaurant, hotel and lodging sectors have difficulty retaining skilled workers because of the negative image that the industry faces.
  • Language skills: English proficiency is a key challenge because a large percentage of the hospitality workforce does not speak English as their primary language. Employers seek language training programs that allow workers to effectively perform their job, which includes providing good customer service and understanding safety requirements.
  • Employability/Soft Skills: Employers have difficulty finding workers who possess basic "soft skills," which are often a prerequisite for success in a customer service-oriented field.
  • Consistent training models and skills certifications: The hospitality industry as a whole lacks consistency and portability in their training models and skill certifications. Many employers run their own internal training programs for entry-level workers, which makes it difficult to monitor the content of training and the skills acquired.

The grants are intended to provide genuine solutions, leadership, and models for partnerships that can be replicated in different parts of the country.