Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Job ticket Tourism cultural and economic force in province

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According to Travel Manitoba, our province is on a roll.

The provincial tourism marketing agency suggests we need to shout from the rooftops that it's "Manitoba Time," and I agree. Manitoba has so much to offer our citizens as well as business visitors and tourists. Just look around; we have the luxury of beautiful parks and glistening blue lakes nearby, with plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure or just plain relaxation.

We are also known for our vibrant arts and cultural industries and are home to the world famous Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Our sports industries have also been recently rejuvenated with the return of the well loved Winnipeg Jets. Not only that, we offer a thriving multicultural population whose members are known for their visitor friendly personalities.

With the May long weekend recently passed, I hope that people had an opportunity to explore all of the great activities our province has to offer. At the same time, the Victoria Day holiday is also often known as the annual launch of the tourist season. For those who are not aware, tourists spend approximately $1.2 billion in our province every year and this is expected to grow at a steady rate over the next few years.

For instance, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights along with our already famous Assiniboine Park Zoo, Churchill polar bear excursions and Riding Mountain National Park, and new retail construction such as the Winnipeg IKEA store are anticipated to attract an increasing number of visitors. And with Tourism Manitoba reporting that the current average hotel occupancy rates out-perform the national average, I'm sure that some of our future visitors will face a challenge in getting a room at the inn.

Tourism is indeed a critical economic driver for job and business development. Tourism is directly responsible for the creation of approximately 4,600 businesses throughout Manitoba, which in turn translates into approximately 17,000 direct tourism jobs. Many of these jobs are found in tourism and travel service agencies, hotel and accommodation businesses, restaurants, food and beverage vendors, parks, spa, resort and event facilities, gaming, cruise lines and leisure transportation or recreation companies and/or sport venues. Typical occupations consist of operations professionals, customer service agents, event planners, facility maintenance, kitchen workers, bartenders, and housekeepers as well as those in management, human resources, finance and marketing.

While federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty touts "there is no such thing as a bad job", it's well known the tourism industry has long suffered from a "bad job" image. Over the years, this has caused significant challenges for business owners in finding quality frontline workers, especially for evening and weekend shifts.

One strategy to overcoming the challenge of that image is to increase the level of professionalism in order to attract candidates to the industry who are interested in a career rather than simply a "pass-through" job. This strategy has resulted in an increased number of diploma and degree programs in hospitality and tourism, most of which also focus a good deal of attention on professionalism and personal pride in their career.

At the same time, the Manitoba Tourism Education Council (MTEC) led by CEO Shannon Fontaine is also heavily involved in helping hospitality and tourism businesses and individuals to increase and value a sense of professionalism, work safely and to exhibit pride in everything they do. MTEC was established 23 years ago and has trained and certified thousands of individuals. In 2011, for instance, MTEC trained over 10,000 individuals both through classroom and online learning.

The "business builders" training series is a group of eight modules directed at business owners who are considered new or an emerging small business. The program guides owners through the practical steps of business planning, product and service development, sales and marketing, financial management, negotiation and human resources.

MTEC also offers and facilitates the nationally recognized emerit certification program which trains individuals and certifies them in a variety of hospitality occupations based on national occupational standards. These national standards also assist employers to establish and maintain a high level of local service standards. In addition, the emerit program offers a human resource toolkit that contains a set of customizable tools to help select, recruit, hire, train, coach, and manage employees effectively.

With over 35,000 employees a year being injured on the job, workplace health and safety training is now mandatory in Manitoba. MTEC offers a certification program to help employers meet this legislative requirement. The program consists of a comprehensive number of training modules including how to build a health and safety program, job hazard analysis, machinery and equipment safety, supervisory responsibility, WHMIS, ergonomics, emergency preparedness and incident investigation.

In addition, MTEC offers an extensive selection of training programs for the retail sector as well as facilities serving liquor. Their signature programs include Serving It Safe and Manitoba BEST Service Excellence certification. Programs are delivered through a wide range of breakfast seminars and workshops. Topics include building teams, reading financial statements, service etiquette, loss prevention, telephone professionalism, personal selling, generations in the workplace, serving diverse customers and mystery shopper programs.

One of the more popular MTEC programs is called the BEST Ambassador program and this year, MTEC and Tourism Winnipeg have teamed up to offer the certification to any Winnipeg business. The goal is to make Winnipeg a place where visitors and customers feel welcome and receive exceptional service.

Finally, with event planning becoming a better known and recognized profession, MTEC also offers a certificate for event planners and co-ordinators. This three-part training series once again focuses on training individuals to a national standard level.

Becoming a professional in any occupation is more than simply dressing the part. It means having the skills and knowledge to excel in a chosen field of work and to provide a consistently high level of service to customers or clients. Today, we are seeing more and more individuals choosing tourism and hospitality occupations as a career and with the assistance of our many tourism-related agencies, and the dedication and commitment of our business owners, a "good job" image is finally gaining strength.

Source: The Winnipeg Barometer Report, Vol 2, 2012, Tourism Winnipeg, Travel Manitoba website,; interview with Shannon Fontaine, CEO, Manitoba Tourism Education Council.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2012 H1

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