Seven out of 10 workers get their first job in tourism, whether part time during school, as a summer job or starting a new career. Nearly 60,000 people work in 3,700 tourism-related businesses in Saskatchewan, including attractions, events, hotels and restaurants.
Right now, the tourism sector faces a worker shortage. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says that a shortage of skilled labour is the top barrier facing businesses today.
Nowhere is that shortage felt more acutely than in booming Saskatchewan. The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) estimates that Saskatchewan’s tourism sector could experience a shortage of about 1,300 workers by the end of this year, rising to about 6,500 within 10 years.
That labour shortage is compounded by a skills shortage. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney recently pointed out that workers often don’t have the skills or experience to match the immediate needs of employers.
One way to address those shortages is by training on the job. The Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council (STEC) provides workplace-based training that lets employees develop industry-recognized career skills, while at the same time addressing employers’ needs for qualified workers.
“More and more, especially as labour shortages start happening, people can go from high school directly to a well-paying industry job,” says Darcy Acton, Manager of Industry Human Resource Development at STEC. “Once you’re in a well-paying job, it’s hard to entice you back into a regular post-secondary stream, if it means leaving the job to attend a program full time. Workplace based training gives you the flexibility to jump right into an industry job, learn on the job, and then formalize that learning, such by acquiring industry-recognized certifications.”
For employers, it means retaining a full complement of experienced staff because employees don’t have to leave the workplace, except for short periods, to attend post-secondary schooling, Acton says.
Tourism occupations are well suited to workplace-based training. Learning can take place without disrupting the business cycle, and the outcomes apply directly to the job. Workplace-based training can complement previously completed post-secondary education, lay the groundwork for entering full-time studies, and support life-long learning.
There are three tourism trades in Saskatchewan, providing the opportunity to start as an apprentice and work toward becoming a Journeyperson Food and Beverage Person, Guest Services Representative, or Cook. Training takes place almost entirely on the job.
The first step toward becoming a journeyperson is to start work in the trade. The current job market in Saskatchewan means that there are plenty of places to start. From there, work experience under the supervision of a certified journeyperson or provincial joint training committee (industry professionals convened by the provincial apprenticeship commission) provides workplace-based, on-the-job training. The Guest Services Representative Trade and Food and Beverage Person Trade require a one-year apprenticeship combined with work experience. A cook going the “tradesperson” route, someone practicing the fullness of the trade, can challenge the national interprovincial trade exam after working a minimum of 8500 hours within 6.5 years.
There is a wide range of career opportunities available to a journeyperson, says Diane Cohoon, Training Manager at STEC, a journeyperson Food and Beverage Person and member of the provincial Trade Board for tourism trades.
“Journeyperson Food and Beverage Persons tend to be in demand for supervisory roles, at a minimum,” Cohoon says. “We often see them move up to Food and Beverage Manager, Director of Food and Beverage, or Director of Corporate Training.”
It’s common to find journeypersons as owner/operator of their own business, Cohoon says.
emerit Professional and Specialist Certifications
Of more than 400 recognized tourism occupations, 25 are eligible for rigorous emerit professional certification through the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council, covering frontline, supervisory and management work.
Certification recognizes workers who meet National Occupational Standards in their field. As with apprenticeships, the first step toward certification is to be working in the occupation, then begin specialized training toward gaining recognition. Certification in some occupations is required when working toward journeyperson status.
Each occupation is a little bit different, but beyond attaining the necessary industry hours, it can take as little as a month to get a professional certification, though most people complete the process around the six-month mark.
“We like to see people finish within a year,” Acton says. “You get your experience, write the exam, do the evaluation if there is one (for Specialist certification), six months to a year period seems to be about right. You can take your time, finish every component and still be up to date.”
“There are examples of people who start out at the front desk and become general manager,” says Acton. “>From general manager, they become divisional managers of properties. It depends on the industry, but we see a lot of that in tourism.”
“It’s important to know the front line jobs, because if you’ve worked on the front line jobs you know exactly how customer satisfaction affects business retention and employee retention,” she adds. “It becomes clearer if you’ve experienced all the jobs on the path to a management position.”