Tourism training is behind the times and fails to equip hospitality recruits with the high-tech skills they need, according to an industry training body.
Liz Ward, CEO of the private provider Tourism Tribe, says the current model of upskilling tourism workers is impractical and a new approach is required to “grow a resilient tourism workforce”.
“Tourism across the globe and also in Australia is growing but tourism operators need to grow too, which means upping their game when it comes to using and leveraging digital technologies, engaging a digitally trained workforce and, most of all, learning to cater to the new digital savvy traveller,” she said.“We need to innovate, learn from other industries, take the best and give it a crack in tourism.
“In order to find the workforce of the future, we need an upskilling model that works with the digital generation’s lifestyle, needs and expectations.
“They move around, they are the social generation – driven to connect, contribute and create – and the training needs to reflect that.”
According to the federal government’s latest figures, tourism businesses are facing substantial recruitment and retention difficulties and skills deficiencies.
Its Tourism 2020 plan identifies four key actions to address these challenges over the next two years: Improving recruitment and retention, enhancing regional workforce planning and development, identifying education and training gaps and mechanisms to address them, and facilitating workforce mobility and expanding the traditional workforce.
But despite a significant investment in national initiatives and grants to enhance training, Ward says the industry is missing the mark.
She argues the vast majority of tourism operators globally are small business with fewer than 20 employees who can’t afford for their employees to take significant periods of time out for training.
“Upskilling the tourism workforce to meet the demands of the new traveller requires a new, on demand, case-study-based model that doesn’t disrupt the operations of the time-challenged micro tourism business that makes up 90 per cent of the industry,” she said.
“Furthermore, training needs to be available to all operators, independently of their location.”
Carol Giuseppi, CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia, says a recognition of the importance of online learning has been around for some time, with eCornell, eHotelier and other companies offering online modules that recognise the need for different learning types.
She acknowledges the need to constantly re-evaluate, but argues that hands-on training is also important in creating an effective tourism workforce.
“There is a need to constantly review the nature of products on offer and provide options that are face-to-face as well as online to improve skills training,” she said.
Vocational education delivery varies from state-to-state as a responsibility of local rather than federal government, and is provided through numerous operators including schools, TAFEs and private training colleges.
Giuseppi points to Coffs Harbour’s recently-launched TAFE NSW facility, SkillsPoint HQ, as an example of enhanced training delivery.
“This new initiative will see TAFE NSW working closely with industry partners to ensure training is aligned with industry needs,” she said.
Destination NSW launched a series of 80 online workshops and 19 webcasts last year in an effort to improve digital and hospitality skills and has expanded the 24/7 offering into 2018 and 2019.
State minister for tourism, Adam Marshall, said: “We’ve consulted with our six destination networks across the state and heard their ideas for upskilling our tourism businesses and growing the visitor economy in NSW.
“The program offers the NSW tourism industry the tools and knowledge needed to gain a competitive edge.”