Career Colleges: Untapped Source of Workforce Potential for Tourism Industry

Career Colleges: Untapped Source of Workforce Potential for Tourism Industry

In this month’s post, we take a closer look at Tourism and the vast range of sub-sectors that constitute the entire industry, specifically the Food and Beverages services and the Arts and Entertainment industry – some of the largest contributors to the sector as a whole.

With $5 billion dollars in annual tax revenues contributed by tourism to our province, this sector is an indispensable component of our province’s economic development and wellbeing. Both  Food, Beverage & Hospitality as well as Arts & Entertainment industries are key sub-sectors of tourism which attract significant amounts of domestic and international visitors to Ontario, creating a combined total of 493,016 jobs in 2019 of a total 685,593 tourism sector jobs across the province.

Unfortunately, tourism was one of the hardest hit sectors in the wake of the pandemic and is widely predicted to be the last to recover. According to the State of the Ontario Tourism Industry Report produced jointly by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) in December, tourism businesses in our province are generating, on average, 64 percent of the revenues they saw in 2019 and 7 in 10 report they have taken on debt to stay afloat.

While the various sub-sectors of the tourism industry create a wealth of job opportunities for Ontarians and Canadians (as seen above) these jobs unfortunately remain far from being filled. As many sectors in our province struggle to find, recruit and retain skilled workers, the tourism sector is no different. The Food and Beverage services industry and the Arts and Entertainment industry are the top two industries hardest hit by labour shortages, with Food & Beverage services topping the charts with a 64 percent expected labour force shortage in 2022, coupled with vacant positions expected to increase by another 24.6 percent in the near future. Following closely in second place is the Arts& Entertainment industry with an expected labour shortage of 39.6 percent, and expected vacant positions to increase by another 15.3 percent.

As pandemic restrictions loosen back to pre-pandemic norms, post-pandemic recovery for these industries will largely depend on their ability to find the skilled labour required to fill these vacant positions. This, in turn, cannot be done without a deeper examination of the structural obstacles prohibiting our job-ready, skilled workers in Ontario and Canada from pursuing careers in these labour-hungry industries.

Food, Beverage & Hospitality

Those trained in the food, beverage and hospitality industry are some of the most prolific creators of small businesses, starting restaurants and catering companies among other entrepreneurial ventures. This is perfectly evidenced by the graduates from Le Cordon Bleu, Ottawa Institute of Culinary Arts. A perfect example of a tourism-oriented skilled worker producer, Le Cordon Bleu (Ottawa) is a world renowned registered career college and attracts top talent from across the globe along with incredible instructors to train them. Its graduates move on to rewarding careers in local embassies, prestigious restaurants, patisseries as well as national and international hotel chains, that stand to fuel both Ontario’s and Canada’s tourism sector.

One of the key findings in the OCC’s and TIAO’s State of the Ontario Tourism Industry Reportwas that domestic student enrolment in tourism and hospitality post-secondary education programs is far outpaced by international enrolment. This is certainly evidenced in the case of our member institution Le Cordon Bleu, Ottawa. Named North America’s Best Culinary Arts Institute of 2022, it boasts a 100% “Employment in Field of Study” rate according to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. However, as is the case with any other regulated career college in the province, the international students that become skilled graduates of Le Cordon Bleu (Ottawa) are denied the right to stay and work in Canada. Employment and Social Development Canada has assessed chefs as a top-tier growth trade, especially with the return to pre-pandemic dining, as does Services Ontario. Why, then, do we continue to erect unnecessary barriers for their incorporation into the workforce?

What this means is that upon graduation, skilled chefs will return to their countries of origin (or elsewhere) to practice their trade rather than enrich the Canadian economy. They go on to lend their skills and expertise to the economies of countries such as Australia, for example, where the government recognizes the invaluable contributions of international students to their economic recovery by increasing the duration of post study work rights to strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour.

Furthermore, the students lost to visa rejection or delay represent not only enormous losses to individual institutions, but equally devastating losses to our country’s overall economic development. This does not bode well for addressing the above-mentioned current and forecasted labour shortages in Canada and Ontario. The OCC and TIAO rightfully identify this crippling immigration backlog of 151,000 international students as one that requires immediate rectification, and the need to implement processes that would prevent any such future backlogs from reoccurring.

Arts & Entertainment

Arts, entertainment and culture make a significant contribution to the tourism industry in Ontario, further supporting job creation and encouraging infrastructure development. The province’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector produced $3.4B in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, representing 0.5 percent of Ontario’s total GDP. Specifically, the movie and TV business generated a GDP of $12.8 billion for the Canadian economy in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association – the leading advocacy organization for the worldwide film, television and streaming industry. Unfortunately, rampant labour shortages in this important sub-sector of the tourism industry are also keeping it from reaching its full potential. The Arts, entertainment and recreation industry in Canada had an expected labour shortage of 39.6 percent in 2022, with the second largest expected vacant position increase sitting at 15.3 percent.

As one of the leading centres of film and television production and post-production in North America, Ontario is a cultural hub in need of skilled workers trained in the audio, film & television, business & technology, music, event and entertainment industry. The Toronto Screen Industry Workforce Study indicated that the most prevalent job shortages in the industry are found in the following specializations:

  • Production accountants: Interviewees emphasized the difficulty in finding production accountants, in part because crew sizes have drastically increased, and more accountants are now required on a production.
  • Drivers (transportation): It is difficult for productions to acquire the right amount of qualified drivers; many interviewees recalled certain productions which requested an amount and received only half from dispatchers; unions confirmed this practice.
  • Art department
  • Grips
  • General construction
  • Hair/makeup
  • IT-related jobs (TDs)
  • Creative roles with highly technical skill sets
  • Animators, 3D modellers, texture artists
  • On set VFX producers/supervisors
  • Experienced post-production producers/supervisors
  • Colourists
  • Sound mixers

Regulated career colleges such as Toronto Film School or TREBAS Institute – among many others – excel at producing graduates equipped with the skills necessary to fill these labour shortages. With a self-reported 80% “Employment in Field of Study” rate among its graduates, The Toronto Film School was recently ranked as The Best Film School in Canada as well as one of The Best Film Schools in Canada by a variety of post-secondary monitoring organizations such as Course Compare and Apply Board. Exemplary career colleges such as these – and many more – produce the skilled workers needed to address the labour shortages plaguing this industry.

What’s Next?

It’s not difficult to see that strong international uptake creates an opportunity to recruit global talent, which in turn stands to bolster our workforce. Policymakers must realize that we cannot afford to spend an average of 4 years per student to train all of our skilled labour, while regulated career colleges produce the labour supply we so desperately need at a fraction of that time. With rigorous hands-on training from some of the world’s best instructors available at regulated career colleges to both domestic and international students alike, along with some of the highest employment-in-field-of-study rates, we are missing out on an opportunity to address this pressing labour demand with a generous supply of ready-to-work graduates. By denying specialized graduates the opportunity to enrich our labour market, we see them turn to other countries instead. There, uninhibited by unnecessary workforce barriers, they go on to work, thrive and bolster those economies.

Solutions to the ongoing labour shortages in Ontario will require all levels of government to work together in recognizing and alleviating unnecessary obstacles to workforce entry, coupled with a sharper focus on the efficiency and quality that vocational training institutes have to offer. The OCC & TIAO’s recommendations regarding ‘continued support for micro-credential programming targeted towards jobseekers looking to pursue careers in tourism and hospitality and workers looking to upskill within the tourism industry’ is not one that should be taken lightly. Regulated career colleges in Ontario have demonstrated time and time again that they are best suited to deliver micro-credential programs and to pivot and adapt accordingly to changing societal dynamics. Until the playing field between the 4 pillars of our post-secondary education system is levelled, regulated career colleges will remain a source of untapped potential for furthering our national and provincial economic recoveries.



Shennel Lobrick

Anderson College

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