Black Immigrant Daily News
Even as the tourism sector recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders say they continue to experience problems with recruiting workers.
According to the newly-elected president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce (NCC), Elaine Allen Bradley, the larger hotel properties have faced the most challenges in hiring staff, as more experienced workers are taking up more lucrative job offers overseas.
“During COVID, persons who got laid off from their jobs found other ways to survive, and found it was more economically viable than working in the hotel”.
“Many hotel workers have returned to school to get their HEART NSTA qualification, and then they are going abroad because the HEART qualifications are accepted in America, Canada and the UK.”
Allen Bradley noted that those countries are also experiencing challenges with staffing in the hospitality sector.
The NCC head said many smaller properties retained staff because they kept them employed on alternative weeks (week-on, week-off) during the pandemic instead of laying them off completely.
Allen Bradley contends that it is difficult for hotel workers to survive on the current minimum wage despite the recent increase.
She also said the practice of hiring workers on short-term contracts does not encourage them to stay in the industry.
“If you are getting $9,500 for a minimum (40-hour) work week, and you have utilities to pay, you have two or three children to maintain, there’s not much left. I would advocate that it (the minimum wage) be moved up again, but you have to put in context where it is coming from. They should equate it to a living wage rather than a minimum wage”, Allen Bradley said.
“I believe another hindrance is working on a contract because, with a short-term contract, you can’t take out a mortgage to buy a house, or get a car loan”.
Meanwhile, Dr Carey Wallace, Executive Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), said the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation increased its efforts to attract new talent through its online portal.
“The JCTI is charged with taking on as many Jamaicans as they can to train and certify them so that they can become skilled performers in the tourism space”, Dr Wallace said. “A certain level of attitude, communication skills, and a certain work ethic are good enough to get them on to the first round of the ladder so that with the performance they can climb as high as they want to reach”.
Regarding the online database of workers accessed at www.tdf.gov.jm, the TEF boss said: “Think of it as a LinkedIn, but just for Jamaicans in the tourism sector”.
Dr Wallace said all the human resource managers from the hotel sector and attractions are able to access the portal, allowing them to choose persons with the preferred skills more efficiently rather than having to bring them in physically for interviews.
He said while the labour shortage in the sector persists, the situation is improving.