Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read July 2021— The ongoing challenge of national labor shortages has impacted almost all business sectors and threatened to impede the economic recovery process. Tourism and hospitality are two sectors feeling the brunt of the shortage. In Palm Beach County, recruiting experts and business owners are looking not only for explanations but possible solutions to this phenomenon.
Abrupt layoffs early in the pandemic were commonplace for the service industry as businesses grappled with bans on indoor dining and mandated closures. In turn, this forced these workers to find alternatives beyond hotels, restaurants and bars. Michael Corbit, vice president of business development for CareerSource Palm Beach County, explained to Travel Weekly how staffing and recruitment agencies helped this labor pool find new opportunities. “Last year, when hospitality was just decimated, we started focusing on getting people who had lost their jobs in hospitality and tourism into careers in manufacturing, healthcare, finance, construction and other industries that were more stable at the time.”
Now, as vaccinations have become widely available and travel restrictions lifted, Palm Beach County has become a hotspot destination for tourists eager to venture far from home after a year of confinement. The challenge for businesses in tourism and hospitality has been to find available labor to service this increased demand.
“If we don’t have the staff to take care of guests at a certain time of day, we’re just not going to operate,” said James O’Reilly, CEO of Smokey Bones, in a discussion hosted by South Florida Business Journal. “We have trimmed our operating hours in certain locations on certain days because we don’t want to sacrifice the long-term health and strength of our concept only to try to capitalize on trying to serve more guests without being able to give them a great experience. That’s a surefire way to turn a loyal guest into a former guest.”
During a recent interview with Invest:, Julia Dattolo, president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach, highlighted that despite the number of vacancies in the market, they are, “…having difficulty filling all of them because some people are still not comfortable coming out of their homes.” Consequently, recruitment and staffing agencies are using multiple tools to persuade candidates to join or rejoin these industries.
In May, CareerSource in conjunction with the City of Palm Beach Gardens and the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce, hosted a virtual job fair tailored to the service sector and aimed at reaching a diverse public in their homes. Other incentives recently used in these industries have included offering higher salaries and bonuses for those who stay more than 90 days.
Although labor shortages are not expected to last beyond the fall, as more people get vaccinated and schools across the country fully reopen, this peril has come with a reckoning for the industry. “The pandemic has made our entire industry take a look at how we treat our employees and also the types of benefits we offer to ensure we find and retain the top-tier talent we need to stay competitive,” said John Puidokas, vice president of operations for Subway, during the discussion hosted by the South Florida Business Journal.