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South Florida tourism leaders work to hire employees

Tourism leaders meet at the Marriott of Palm Beach Gardens on Aug. 26, 2021.jpg
Posted at 1:30 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 16:59:28-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The national worker shortage continues to put a strain on Florida's fragile tourism industry. But hotels and restaurants across South Florida are collaborating to bounce back.

Tourism is Florida's top industry, but the biggest challenge that many hotels and restaurants face right now are the vacant positions, especially as we head into the busy season.

On Thursday at the Marriott of Palm Beach Gardens, that discussion took center stage.

Discover the Palm Beaches, as well as the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, invited members of the community to put their thinking caps on and brainstorm.

"I didn't even know myself that Easter Seals had a training program for culinary. We have the Housing Authority who has brought resumes with them. There are people that are actually looking for work in hospitality and culinary," said Jodi Cross with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The goal was to give employers non-traditional resources for finding employees. A lot of this was just connecting people and connecting the dots that they really maybe didn't even know these community organizations did.

For example, instead of employers just listing their vacancies on job sites and hoping for the right candidate to come along, their new strategy is to recruit students from Palm Beach State College and Florida Atlantic University who are already enrolled in hospitality programs, training them up, and giving them a head start on their career.

"This year we gave out $34,000 in scholarships to those kids to go to Palm Beach State, local schools, anything that has a culinary link," Cross said.

"People start off as a dishwasher, a bellman, a front desk clerk, like myself, and then you work your way up through the system. And now I'm the general manager. Never thought it would be a general manager, so when I go out to speak to people, I try to inspire them. You can do this," said Roger Amidon with the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa.

Not only do employers want to fill their open positions, they're also finding ways to foster inclusivity and diversity in their recruitment and retention policies.