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A call for industry-academia collaboration to address the labor shortage challenge

When the pandemic hit, the hospitality and tourism (H&T) industry immediately responded to the crisis with furloughs and layoffs. It did not take long for the industry to realize that it must deal with the labor shortage challenge. In fact, the labor shortage challenge is not new to the H&T industry, but the “Great Resignation” during the pandemic has worsened the situation.  

In one of my recent publications in the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, I presented three propositions about the labor shortage issue facing the H&T industry. The paper aims to initiate a conversation between our industry leaders and administrators/professors in academic programs with some collaboration ideas. The following are some key ideas. 

 

The three questions being discussed

 

  1. Will the worsening labor shortage challenge facing the H&T industry improve in the short term? 
  2. How can industry professionals and academic leaders/professors work together to address the labor shortage issue? 
  3. How can academic research help address the labor shortage challenge? 

 

The three propositions/conclusions 

 

To answer the first question, I presented three propositions (P1 – P3) based on a review of relevant business reports and research about the labor shortage situation. I concluded that the H&T industry would likely be one of the slower sectors to recruit its workforce back to employment.

 

P1: The increasing demands by both organizations and customers have made H&T jobs more challenging and stressful, resulting in more employment separations in the H&T industry. 

P2: As more H&T companies adopt AI-empowered automatic services in operations, new skillsets (e.g., human-machine interactions) are needed to perform the jobs. 

P3: Low labor supply for managerial talents, especially from accredited academic programs, will persist in the H&T industry for at least a few more years. 

 

Ideas for a stronger collaboration between the hospitality and tourism industry and academic programs 

 

I presented my recommendations under three primary areas of talent management to answer the second question. Some suggestions are for H&T companies; others are for H&T programs, plus a few collaboration initiatives (as the following). 

 

Talent acquisition

 

  1. To feature recent graduates’ positive experience in the industry regularly as a co-branding and content marketing strategy.
  2. To include selective students in companies’ social activities to engage candidates with current employees.
  3. To establish structured college recruitment programs for interns and graduates.
  4. To establish a “work-study” program, supporting employees to go back to school and students to work in the industry.

 

Learning and Development

 

  1. To extend the college education program in the industry (e.g., The Disney College Program).
  2. To embed the real industry experience into the students’ learning experience in all courses.
  3. To develop intensive training or certificate programs together for continuous education either at work or in school.
  4. To train faculty with the most updated industry knowledge in a real business setting (e.g., faculty internship).

 

Talent retention

 

  1. To co-host cultural activities that involve employees and students.
  2. Present various career options within the industry, encouraging people to stay within the industry even if they do not like their current jobs.

 

To answer the third question, I made recommendations for academic research. In the end, I echo the reviewers’ comments that it will take more than just industry-academia collaboration to address the worsening labor shortage issue, but I hope my critical reflection, although with a narrow focus on two primary stakeholders of the industry, will become a starting point for a conversation that will eventually spark an on-going and more in-depth discussion to address the labor shortage challenge. 

 

References

 

Kwok, L. (2022). Labor shortage: A critical reflection and a call for industry-academia collaboration. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJCHM-01-2022-0103/full/html

 

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