Opportunities for job growth in Tourism and Hospitality in Northern Queensland

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Cairns is the gateway to North Queensland’s tropical Great Barrier Reef – a heritage listed natural wonder that brings thousands upon thousands of domestic and international tourists to North Queensland every year.

With a population of over 150,000, Cairns’ expansive white beaches and buzzing atmosphere makes it home to one of the biggest tourism hotspots in Australia.  However, health care and social assistance is the leading industry in Cairns, employing just under 13% of the population.  Food and Accommodation services accounts for just under 10% of employment.

In a report conducted by Skills Queensland in 2012, there were indications of high drop-out rates for apprenticeships, not only in the hospitality industry but also in construction and trades.  According to the report, the following areas were highlighted as crucial areas to address through workforce development planning:

  • A smaller labour pool to recruit from
  • Expectations of higher wage rates
  • An ageing workforce
  • Difficulties in attracting and retaining professionals and skilled labour
  • The impact of seasonality on staff retention

Advance Cairns has developed a workforce plan that addresses these areas through a range of workforce strategies and education programs.  Solutions outlined in the Far North Queensland Industry Workforce Development Activity Update (mid 2013) included:

  • Developing an apprenticeship model that increases employers capacity to take up apprentices in an economic downturn, with a view to overcoming short and longer term skills shortages.
  • Seasonal workforce research to inform the development of cross sectoral retention strategies for employers and year round employment options for the regions residents, through the development of a Seasonal Workforce Profile. This included action research on who are the seasonal workforce, where do they come from, where do they go to, and what are the jobs they fill, in which sectors, over what timeframe.
  • Contribute to the Regional Economic Plan through actioning the following foundation strategy; ‘Develop the skills and capacity of the region’s workforce now and into the future.’ Actions include coordinating and supporting industry leaders groups to identify and address the challenges faced by industry and employers in accessing appropriate skills.

Can workforce development increase jobs in Cairns within the Tourism & Hospitality industries?

Although there is a robust workforce development plan in place for the area, Workforce BluePrint has identified some areas in which additional workforce planning and development could be beneficial.

Advance Cairns outlined a range of strategies for solving current problems, however there are opportunities to develop future strategies for stronger tourism and hospitality industries, based on a surge in new developments, highly investable geographics, and attractive natural assets.

This can be done through:

  • Developing a structured cross sectoral skills program in partnership with major tourism & hospitality businesses, with pathways across Business, Hospitality and/or Tourism from high school age to business owner or manager.
  • Providing workforce inspiration workshops for employers to teach them how to create stimulating work cultures modelled for high retention.
  • Implementing succession planning as a ritualised process for big employers currently operating in Cairns.
  • Collaborating with Cairns’ overarching Tourism Commission to deliver joint marketing activities, incorporating messaging around Cairns being the best place to work and live.
  • Setting objectives to have Cairns recognised as being the number one place to work in Tourism or Hospitality nationally due to diverse opportunities, industry experience, mentorships and support for tourism and hospitality courses.
  • Facilitating new initiatives that expose young people to entrepreneurship, like BO$$ camp providing inspiration, experience and connections to the local business and startup community.

If you would like to discuss how some of these strategies might work in your industry and regions, contact Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner at Workforce BluePrint via wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

May 2015.


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