The labour market. It’s an issue that has been discussed to no end and we still haven’t reached a solution.

Where do we find staff for our tourism businesses?

Of course, we’ve been presented with numerous options from increasing wages to offering more benefits and from hiring retirees to searching the foreign labour pool for talent.

With all of these options, let’s not forget one of the most important resources that can safeguard the future of our businesses and the entire industry: our youth.

In order to ensure a prosperous and vibrant future for our industry, we must realize the enormous value in recruiting youth into our labour market. The new generation of future tourism champions are arriving with fresh ideas, endless energy and a level of enthusiasm that can both inspire greatness and leave smiles on the faces of even the most unenthusiastic of visitors.

And best of all, many young workers are eager to get involved in exciting and adventurous experiences and there is no choice more appealing than that of working in the tourism industry.

The problem lies in the fact that it’s too easy to focus on the immediate future. When you need a new employee, do you look for those with the most experience and qualifications? Or do you take the initiative to learn more about the applicants who show little experience, but may have great personal interest in the tourism industry?

It always makes sense to have employees who can do the job and do it well. That often comes with experience, which entry-level workers will be missing. However, by taking the time to work with an inexperienced (but enthusiastic!) employee, you give yourself the opportunity to work with an employee who can learn your business the way you run it.

Unlike an experienced professional of many years, a new employee can be quite flexible and adapt to the needs of your business. The “loss” in terms of time and money spent in training will be more than worth it as your new employee learns your business and becomes an integral part of your operations.

Given time, when you leave for your vacation a few years down the road, you’ll be completely comfortable in the fact that your business is in able hands and business will be handled the way you want, as opposed to leaving your business in the hands of someone with experience who is already set in their ways.

Many operators offer funding to their employees to help enhance their education and skills in tourism, although it is quite understandable that a great deal of small businesses may not have room in their budget to allocate funding to training.

Keep in mind that there are a great deal of funds that will cover a large percentage of the costs of training for those interested (or currently) working in tourism. These include:

  • TIA Yukon’s Yukon Tourism Training Fund (YTTF). Visit www.yttf.ca for more information.
  • Yukon Historical & Museums Association’s Yukon Heritage Training Fund. Visit heritageyukon.ca for more information.
  • Service Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program. Visit www.servicecanada.gc.a for more information.
  • The Department of Tourism and Culture’s Cultural Industry Training Fund, available at www.tc.gov.yk.ca.

Entry-level employees want to work for you, but be aware of the fact a little assistance from you, the potential employer, can go a long way toward fostering a solid working relationship.

The job market is quite volatile for newcomers to the industry. Employees may be in demand, but the fact remains that it is much harder to land a first job in the present than it has been in the past, since it is more difficult for entry-level workers to gain work experience. This makes it tough.

Also, newcomers to the tourism industry may not be aware of training programs or funding available to them. And their lack of employment and income further restricts their ability to receive training.

As an employer in a vibrant tourism industry, you should not only take the initiative to inform youth about the funding and programs available to them, but you should also take a chance and hire an enthusiastic entry-level worker. It could be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the competitiveness of your business and the quality of customer service in not only the present, but in the future as well.

You owe to yourself and your customers.