How can we fix the hotel skills shortage?

Earlier this week, hospitality industry leaders and tertiary institutions joined forces in Sydney to fight the hotel skills shortage.

No, that doesn’t mean they ganged up on hotel employees for not being skilled enough, they were actually trying to attract the next generation of skilled young professionals to the hotel industry through the Hotel Careers Expo.

You see, the Aussie hotel industry is getting serious about its skills shortage.

Our $40 billion tourism industry is expected to be a major contributor to Australia’s future economic growth. Despite that, the industry is facing a labour shortfall across the industry with a forecast of 123,000 skilled and unskilled workers needed by 2020.

In Greater Sydney alone, 57 hotels and over 10,000 rooms are in the pipeline – all of which need staff across a range of career segments from IT, finance, and engineering to food and beverage and front desk teams.

To find out more about the skills shortage, we had a chat with Carol Giuseppi, the CEO of the peak industry body behind the expo – Tourism Accommodation Association (TAA).

Travel Weekly: Tell me a bit about the Hotel Career Expo – why is it important for the industry to hold events like this one?

Carol Giuseppi: The Hotel Career Expo was developed in direct response to the current skills shortages and the recognition that these will be further exacerbated by the tightening of the skilled migration settings, the exponential growth of the industry and the lack of students seeking out hospitality careers.

The Expo is a chance for the industry to showcase career opportunities to secondary and tertiary students and young professionals across all disciplines – including marketing, finance, IT and engineering – not just the traditional hospitality skill sets.

TW: What does the hotel industry’s skills shortage look like and how is it affecting the industry?

CG: More than $8 billion is being invested in the hotel industry, equating to 34,702 rooms currently under construction, approved for development or in advanced planning stages across Australia.

In Greater Sydney alone, 57hotels and over 10,000 rooms are in the pipeline – all of which need staff in operations, finance, marketing, engineering, food and beverage and operations to create world-class hotels.

TW: How should the industry go about attracting people to a career in tourism and hospitality? 

CG: The first step is to communicate that a role in the hospitality industry can be more than a casual job or something you do on a gap year.

The Expo lays the foundation with tertiary and secondary students so that we are on their radar as they are considering their career.

At the Expo we showcase all the possible career paths including TAFE and wonderful schools such as the Blue Mountains Hotel School and the William Blue Culinary Institute.

The hotel representatives are also discussing work experience, graduate programs and ‘rising star’ initiatives which fast track high performing talent on their career path.

Constant reinforcement of the message that a diverse and interesting professional career is available in the hotel industry is essential and the industry is committed to ensuring we are both attracting the right people and supporting their careers

TW: How can the industry change the perception that hospitality is a ‘temporary career’? 

CG: By communicating the available career opportunities to educators, parents and students we are reaching the next generation of young professionals who perhaps wouldn’t have previously considered a career in hotels unless they were specifically studying hospitality.

The industry can also offer great diversity and allow you to move into different departments and develop new skills.  What might start as short-term role can open up a world of opportunities for a fulfilling full-time career.

TW: Why do people have this perception of hospitality? 

CG: Hospitality is a broad term covering a number of sectors.   The accommodation sector is a sophisticated industry offering a diversity of careers, with HR teams, mentors and programs that offer opportunities for career progression.

We are currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in tourism with the visitor economy one of the strongest contributors to the Australian economy.

This growth has seen significant investment in refurbishment of existing hotels and growth of new hotels and innovation across the industry.

We are therefore seeking to attract the next generation who will offer fresh insights, passion and skills that support this growth.