Eye on Hospitality: Lifting People Up and Building Careers

Eye on Hospitality: Lifting People Up and Building Careers

By Paul Schlienz

Hospitality means careers.

On Oct. 6, the Washington Hospitality Association hosted a hiring event at Motif Seattle. In partnership with the Department of Health and Social Services Employment Pipeline Region 2 and Motif, Washington Hospitality was able to provide community members with valuable employment opportunities. In just one day, more than 65 deserving individuals were given new jobs.

“From first job to lifelong career, our industry is a pipeline for employment,” said Teran Petrina Haase, vice president of the Washington Hospitality Association.

And there are many opportunities.

Taken by itself, hospitality’s restaurant and foodservice sector is the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, employing 14 million people, or 10 percent of the U.S. workforce. Add to this 1.9 million U.S. employees and 53,000 properties in hospitality’s lodging sector, and you’ll see how formidable this industry really is. In Washington state alone, hospitality is the largest private employer, providing 269,000 jobs.

Increasingly, prospective workers are seeing hospitality as a ladder for career advancement.

With highly publicized programs like Starbucks’ partnership with Arizona State University in 2015 to offer full and part-time U.S. employees free tuition, the opportunities are unmistakable.

“Talk about a major opportunity for baristas,” Joe Kefauver, managing partner at Align Public Strategies, wrote in Nation’s Restaurant News. “Plus, they began to view the company as a pathway to something more.”

Kefauver urges the hospitality industry to embrace this kind of approach, which will help it overcome negative stereotyping and inaccurate perceptions by the public.

“We have a rare opening to become the solution for workers who want to be trained and exposed to higher learning they can’t otherwise afford,” wrote Kefauver. “Right now we’re known as the minimum wage industry and we get unfairly disparaged for it. We can change that perception by offering opportunities beyond practical customer service and kitchen knowledge.”

The hospitality industry is also reaching out to neglected and marginalized populations in order to connect them with career opportunities.

A good example of this kind of effort is the California Restaurant Association’s groundbreaking partnership with the California Trans Workplace Project to connect transgendered persons, whose unemployment rate is double that of the general population, with jobs.

And one of the emphases of the Washington Hospitality Association’s recent hiring event was also to reach out to underemployed populations.

“With this event we were really trying to pave the way for people who often have roadblocks to success, like a lack of transportation or childcare, with good jobs and ways to get over those hurdles,” said Haase. “We care about lifting people up and giving them the opportunities we were once given.”