RTO7 Workforce Update

Workforce is a key issue facing the tourism industry. Recently, we’ve been working with tourism operators and educators to brainstorm ideas and gather information about how we can meet the workforce challenges facing our industry, today and in the future. This Connection Post (and others to follow) will bring you up to date on some of the discussions and initiatives currently underway. 

Roundtable Discussion
On April 6th, operators and educators gathered in Barrie to share ideas. The meeting was a follow up to a brainstorming session at RTO7’s Tap into Tourism event at Horseshoe Resort in November. At that original session, 20 resort operators and educators met to discuss working together. The focus was on preparing students for the working world and educating operators on retaining and recruiting students. While this original discussion focused on Simcoe County, we are looking for ways to expand and respond to these issues in Bruce and Grey.
Here’s a few of the initiatives discussed…
Region 7 Professional Development Strategy Underway
In the past week or so we’ve communicated out about the Region 7 Professional Development Strategy that was kicked off at this meeting.  Gillian Fairley introduced the joint project being undertaken by the Collingwood Centre for Business and Development and RTO7.  Richard Innes of Braintrust explored the group’s perceptions of the need for professional development for owner/operators and led a discussion about existing programs/trainings/ resources and their merits.  Richard will be gathering Region 7 stakeholder feedback over the next few months to better establish needs. 
If you haven’t yet read/heard about this initiative, click here for more info.
Blue Mountain Village Association Workforce Committee
BMVA President, Andrew Siegwart, spoke to a Workforce Committee he’s established to encourage immediate action on these critical issues in our industry. With tourism’s key economic role in Region 7, figuring out the current labour supply challenge is crucial.  He gave the hard-hitting example of operators putting marketing campaigns on hold because they don’t have enough employees to service visitors.  He pointed out that the few new employees entering the tourism workforce face challenges like affordable housing and transportation to and from work.  These workforce challenges are forcing the industry to lose revenue and negatively impacting our regional brand.  The BMVA workforce committee hopes to develop short and long term strategies to address these issues by working collaboratively. For more information, please contact Andrew Siegwart.
ICE (Innovation, Creativity & Entrepreneurship)
In collaboration with the Simcoe County District School Board, RTO7 brought ICE to Fern Resort!  ICE is an increasingly popular approach within the education sector to strengthen ties with industry and give students the opportunity to work on critical thinking, communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills. 
On May 9, 11 students from Nantyr Shores Secondary School in Innisfil gathered at Fern Resort in Orillia for a two-day adventure.  Day 1, students had fun, shadowing a number of positions (serving, making beds, mocktails, checking guests in, planning events, etc.) at the resort in order to learn more about what’s involved in working at a resort.  On Day 2, Laura Downing challenged the students to help find ways to recruit and retain youth/students at the resort.  In groups, the students spent the day working on the challenge (getting a bit more context, etc.) and at the end of the day, presented their solutions to Fern and RTO7.  We’re awaiting a more detailed evaluation, but immediate feedback from both the students and the resort was two thumbs up!  The students really appeared to appreciate what Fern is trying to accomplish and were able to bring their unique perspective to the challenge. In exchange for their time in organizing the event, Fern got some new ideas to try out.  RTO7 is considering piloting this concept with other interested operators.
One interesting approach Nantyr takes is to use volunteer drivers (seniors) to get kids from school to their after-school jobs (when parents are still typically at work).  Parents still need to pick their children up, but half the job is done for them!
Also on a transportation note, did you know that the Town of Innisfil has partnered with UBER in lieu of a municipal transit system?  You can get anywhere in the township for $3-5/ride!
Tourism Video Opportunity – Your Five Minutes of Fame!
The Simcoe-Muskoka Workforce Development Board has offered to produce a number of video highlighting tourism success stories in Simcoe County. They’d do all the work and finance it – we just need to provide the individuals and their stories.
Themes for the 4-5 minute videos might include:
  • Everything I Need to Know for Success I Learned in Tourism
  • Management/Owners who started in Tourism and rose through the ranks
  • Employers Who Have Overcome Barriers (to Hiring or Retention) with Unique Offerings
  • Student Entrepreneurs: Seeding the Future Growth of Tourism
Please get in touch if you or someone you know or employ might be a good subject! More information on this opportunity is available here.
Looking for Skilled Foreign Workers?
You might be interested in exploring the Ontario Central South-West Francophone Immigration Network. The Network brings skilled workers into Canada to work on a temporary basis – and does so extremely quickly and simply (a matter of weeks?).  It’s not essential that the skilled positions you offer involve speaking French.  Here’s a link to more info about this program including an application form to have your job offers posted online as part of a virtual job fair from June 1-30.
Combining the BGS Annual Conference with Tap into Tourism
Lastly, we received support for the idea of combining RTO7’s Annual Conference with our Tap into Tourism student event later this fall and adding a focus on workforce related topics. So over the next few months, we will be working towards planning a fun, challenging event to bring operators and students together to strengthen relationships and raise the profile of tourism as a career. 
All-in-all, it was a positive session and one we intend to repeat on an annual (or semi-annual) basis.  If you are interested in learning more about any of these initiatives or have your own ideas to share in future sessions, please let Alex know at ahogan@rto7.ca
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