Future Skills Centre and OTEC announce rapid response project for hard-hit tourism and hospitality workers
TORONTO (May 14, 2020) — The disruption to the global economy from COVID-19 is unprecedented and rapidly evolving with its impact on the Canadian labour market likely to be widespread, long-lasting, and unpredictable. The Future Skills Centre (FSC) and OTEC today announced a rapid response project for the hundreds of thousands tourism and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The goal is to equip these displaced workers to be able to navigate an uncertain future and get new skills for changing jobs by 1) understanding and supporting their immediate needs, 2) mapping their skills and assets, and 3) finding and implementing in real-time new approaches to digitally reskilling and upskilling.
The project includes an online platform where workers will find immediate services to support resilience during the crisis. Through the platform, displaced workers will access information about COVID-related government benefits, training, certifications, tourism and hospitality job opportunities, and options to work in jobs in related industries.
The online platform will also provide support for businesses. Using it, employers will be able to support employees while they are laid off, track the stages of recovery, and respond to new realities — as the industry adapts, new business models arise, and workers will need, for example, new training in safety and protective equipment and spacing.
The project will be launched in phases and tested in Ontario first. FSC and OTEC are working with industry partners like Tourism HR Canada to look for opportunities to share and scale the project in other provinces.
In Ontario, industry partners in the project include the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC), Tourism HR Canada, and Tourism SkillsNet Ontario.
“The impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and hospitality sector has been rapid and devastating,” says OTEC President and CEO Adam Morrison. “Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are now out of work and need help. Through this project, and the broad collaboration it represents, our industry will come out of this crisis more resilient and better prepared to respond in difficult times such as these.”
The tourism and hospitality sector is facing massive closures, layoffs and a tough road to recovery. Data from Statistics Canada shared in early May 2020 shows that, since COVID shutdowns began, hospitality and tourism employment has decreased by 43.3% and the overall unemployment rate for the sector is now 28.8%. The implications require urgent attention for a workforce disproportionately represented by young people, women, and newcomers to Canada.
“The tourism and hospitality sector is going through an incredibly difficult period,” said Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. “This rapid response initiative is one of the ways we will lay the groundwork for recovery. We are steadfast in supporting talent and skills development for workers as a key part of our plan as we emerge from the shutdown.”
This initiative brings together OTEC’s experience in scaled collaboration with employers, community employment networks, and workers, and FSC and its consortium partners’ expertise in research, testing of approaches, digital solutions, and evaluation to better understand what works, how, and for whom. FSC consortium partners working on this initiative include Blueprint, The Conference Board of Canada, and Ryerson’s Magnet.
“At Future Skills Centre, we are focusing our energy on building a forward-looking strategy to support Canada’s shift into the ‘reset’ and ‘rebuild’ phases of economic recovery,” says FSC Executive Director Pedro Barata. “This partnership will create and test prototypes to directly connect and support tourism and hospitality workers now, and give us a roadmap for sustainable solutions that can help with the long-term rebuild of our economy.”
FSC is investing $2.25 million in this rapid response project. This initiative in the tourism and hospitality sector will create a foundation for FSC to support other sectors and organizations across the country in testing how innovative approaches to skills development can contribute to “shock-proofing” our labour force. The Centre will launch a skills innovation response fund in May 2020.
“Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan is providing Canadians and businesses in sectors across the country, including the tourism and hospitality sector, with the help they need to face these unprecedented challenges” says The Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. “Partnerships like this one will help position the industry and its workforce for success, as we emerge from the crisis.”
Future Skills Centre is a forward-thinking research and collaboration hub dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success and meeting the emerging talent needs of employers. As a pan-Canadian community, FSC brings together experts and organizations across sectors to rigorously identify, assess, and share innovative approaches to develop the skills needed to drive prosperity and inclusion. FSC is directly involved in innovation through investments in pilot projects and academic research on the future of work and skills in Canada. The Future Skills Centre is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.
Ontario Tourism Education Corporation is Ontario’s leader in workforce innovation for the tourism and hospitality industry. Known for creating innovative sector-based solutions for the future of work, the not-for-profit organization’s work focuses on skills training, consulting, and research and evaluation to guide workforce strategy and evidence-based investment. OTEC also coordinates tourism and hospitality workforce development efforts across the province. It is in this capacity that OTEC leads an alliance of industry partners called Tourism SkillsNet Ontario.