Job fair a necessity amid labour shortage

Hospitality, tourism, retail sectors search for staff

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If only Alyssa Umbeer had brought a resume.

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If only Alyssa Umbeer had brought a resume.

She and her schoolmates strolled from booth to booth — a restaurant hiring here, a hotel there — during the Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Job Fair at the RBC Convention Centre Wednesday.

“I’m hoping to hire, fingers crossed, 10, 15, 20 people today, on site,” said Chee Tan, operations manager for Salisbury House.

Students attended the Manitoba Tourism Education Council Hospitality and Tourism Job Fair at the convention centre on Wednesday. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

So, Umbeer found herself interviewing for a server or chef position mere steps away from the restaurant’s setup.

“All I have to do is send my resume,” the 16-year-old said. “Then, I’ll see from there.”

The job fair was “a necessity,” according to Shelley Zelcer, an employee of the Manitoba Tourism Education Council, the event’s host.

Chee Tan (left) operations manager for Salisbury House, and Matt Di Ubaldo (right), marketing manager, hoped to hire between 10 and 20 people at the job fair. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

“There are a lot of businesses in the tourism industry that are looking for positions to fill, and now is the time to do it,” she said.

Manitoba’s hotel and restaurant associations co-hosted the job fair with MTEC.

“With travel restrictions lessening every day and borders being open, and now we can kind of get back to what we do… we don’t have people to work,” said Scott Jocelyn, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association.

Cheyenne Tanasychuk, a culinary student at Technical Vocational High School, says it was good to make face-to-face connections with people at the job fair. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

He called the labour shortage a “common problem” for hotels across the spectrum.

Forty-four businesses participated in the job fair, more than doubling the 20 spots initially reserved, said Shannon Fontaine, the Manitoba Tourism Education Council’s CEO.

The twenty booths sold out within the first four days of advertising.

“There was no industry impacted (by the COVID-19 pandemic) like this,” Fontaine said.

Thousands lost their jobs, she said. Restaurants underwent waves of laying off staff and looking to rehire. Hotels had near empty periods over the past two years.

“We’ve never really had to do this, to be honest,” Tan from Salisbury House said at the job fair.

A typical pre-pandemic April might see 10 resumes per week at each of the chain’s eight locations, Tan said. Now, “it’s maybe one,” he added.

Employees who’ve been with the company for decades are back, but many risk being overburdened, according to Matt Di Ubaldo, Salisbury House’s marketing manager.

“(Job seekers) have the advantage as well, because there’s so many more companies hiring,” he said. “They have the opportunity to be really selective, which is another reason why we’re here. We want to put our best foot forward.”

Cheyenne Tanasychuk, a culinary student at Technical Vocational High School, was in awe of the different booths. It was her first field trip in years.

“It’s a lot easier (to make connections with companies),” she said, adding she can mention she’s a chef-in-training face-to-face.

Tourisme Riel and Ô Tours were scouting summer students (along with a marketing manager, professional guides and a reservations co-ordinator).

“There is a resurgence of tourism,” said Barbara Hacio Kirby, tourism director for the sister companies.

Last year, they held two tours — an increase from the one in 2020, Hacio Kirby said. This summer, 60 tours are in the works, she said.

“It is such an important thing that people come together and work together to bring (tourism) back up,” she said.

In a baseline scenario, Manitoba’s tourism industry will have missed $1.8 billion in visitor spending from 2020 through 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the 2021 Manitoba Tourism Strategy.

The tourism and hospitality sector must change some common preconceptions to make their jobs attractive, according to Fontaine.

Former employees have cited low pay and irregular hours as reasons for leaving the industry. Some jobs pay minimum wage, which is $11.95 in Manitoba (set to increase to $12.35 on Oct. 1).

“There’s many people who are making high salaries and high wages working in the industry,” Fontaine said, adding workers gain transferrable skills on the job.

Entry level roles are typically lower paying, regardless of industry, she said. But, there’s room to grow.

“We’ve had people get placed as a housekeeper and right away, they’re a manager,” she said. “If you are a person with good personal skills, they’ll train you.”

The Manitoba Tourism Strategy — made in partnership between the province, Travel Manitoba and the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce — aims to grow visitor spending by 50 per cent, reaching $2.5 billion by 2030.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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