Jessica Ham wants to be a pastry chef, but when she finished school she didn’t have a job lined up.
So, after taking a couple of courses, and with the help of WorkSource, she landed a job at Yoke’s Bakery and plans to continue to pursue her dream.
Ham’s story is just one example of how the college is working with local employers to develop a larger labor force that has training.
Restaurants and hotels are becoming more aggressive in their attempts to change how potential employees see the hospitality industry. A tight labor market combined with an increasing number of businesses looking for talent has made the industry seek new ways to attract people into the market.
Hospitality job fair coming
One solution will be coming to Columbia Basin College’s campus on May 22 — a job fair specifically for the hospitality industry. The event will be held in the CTE building between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
With a month left, they’ve already attracted nearly a dozen employers, with more expressing interest.
WorkSource is working with the college, the Washington Hospitality Association and Workforce Systems Partners to put on the program designed to find quality employees.
All of the hotels and restaurants coming to the event have jobs available, said Carya Bair, with business services at Worksource Columbia Basin.
“We want to connect them with the staff that they need,” she said. “It’s more focused on the entry-level staff.”
The job fair is in conjunction with Washington Hospitality Month. While it’s not the first such event the organization supported, it is the first in a while, Bair said.
Across the state, employers are trying to find people fill vacant jobs. The job market has only gotten tighter in the past few years, according to the hospitality association.
When the association polled its members in 2016, only 20 percent of restaurants and 23 percent of hotels said keeping employees was the top issue facing their business.
Two years later, those numbers rose to 41 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
That is something Jeff Morgan, the director of operations for Hops N Drops has seen first hand. Whenever there is low unemployment, it makes it harder to recruit people. He believes it’s time for restaurants to change their image as dead-end jobs.
“I really think that I’m fortunate that I’ve grown up in this industry,” he said. “I started out as an hourly team member. All of my general managers started as hourly team members.”
All of this is occurring as traffic at restaurants and hotels in Benton and Franklin counties is increasing, according to association figures. Between 2014 and 2017, the amount of sales inside of restaurants grew by 25 percent in Benton County and by 31 percent in Franklin County.
Lodging grew slower, with sales trending upward by 25 percent in Benton and 19 percent in Franklin.
Association leaders are hoping events like this will get people to start thinking about the hospitality industry as a career path.