Conference and event industry says staffing shortage still a concern
Conference, hospitality and tourism-related industries still haven’t fully recovered from staffing shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That was among the issues discussed Thursday at an industry meeting in London, Ont. on how to attract big events.
“Because the industry shut down for so long, it was a necessity that people had to be laid off,” said Barry Smith, the executive director of Convention Centres of Canada. Smith was one of the panelists at the Industry Matter’s Breakfast at RBC Place. The meeting attracted government, tourism and exposition representatives.
Smith said while the staffing issues are less of a concern than they were a few months ago, some businesses are still struggling to reach their full potential.
“I can think of a couple of my members, convention centres in Canada, that could not take the business because they didn’t have the staff,” he said. “They couldn’t run the event successfully, so they were actually turning away business.”
Panelists also expressed the importance of investing in workforce development. For instance, getting college and university grads to stay and build their careers in the communities they were educated in.
“You have a whole new leadership coming in, you have whole new styles,” said Jennifer Allaby, executive director, Canadian Association of Exposition Management, who has staged expos across the country. “And this is really setting this industry up for growth and for reinvention, which I think is a tremendous thing, so Fanshawe students we are ready for you.”
Kapil Lakhotia, president and CEO of London Economic Development Corporation, said removing constraints that job seekers face is also a challenge — one which London is working to address.
“What could be these constraints? It could be access to transportation, housing, daycare,” he said. “Things that prevent people from finding meaningful employment. A lot of work is underway in our community, for instance, to advance some of those barriers.”
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