Connecting the workforce ecosystem


Arizona’s collaborative approach to hotel career development


The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expects this year’s Super Bowl to ultimately generate $600 million in economic impact for the city, and the broader payoff may be even larger based on Arizona’s statewide haul at $1.3 billion after Phoenix hosted last year.

Arizona’s events like the Cactus League Spring Training, Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, and the upcoming 2024 NCAA Men’s Final Four, combined with the state’s natural wonders like the Grand Canyon can translate into big opportunities for hotel owners.

As tourism continues to drive local economies, hotel owners are finding the best ways to anticipate workforce needs. This includes coordinating and collaborating with local partners and investing in career development for staff to ensure your hotel is part of the excitement for the next mega event coming to your town.

How do job seekers, businesses, and employers connect in the workforce ecosystem?

Workforce-development strategies should function as a connection point for the workforce ecosystem. Job seekers are calling for more professional development opportunities, and businesses that support employees with on-the-job training, internships, and work based experience opportunities see higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

Arizona’s hospitality industry is taking a regional approach to connecting jobseekers to skills-development opportunities. A regional approach is characterized by a thoughtful analysis and understanding of local economic and educational needs to identify specific areas where challenges need to be addressed. The impact on students, job seekers, and their community is maximized through partnerships with government organizations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and local businesses.

As part of this approach – in collaboration with the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association – Pipeline AZ is offering increased awareness and access to a seamless career growth journey of local hotel workers and managers. The online hub for education and certification opportunities supports employees wherever they find themselves along the way toward accomplishing their career goals by showing what programs are available in their area.

Ensuring workers have a clear understanding of their career path within the tourism industry is essential for fostering employee retention and recruitment, ultimately contributing to the industry’s growth and sustainability.

Collaborating with local stakeholders in hospitality and tourism is crucial. Look for partners who share your values and aim to invest in comprehensive workforce-development strategies.

As job seekers and current workers become more aware of their career pathway, it’s important to have local resources to meet the interests of job and career seekers. Community colleges in each of Arizona’s 15 counties have partnered with community organizations and businesses to connect job seekers with work-based learning experiences, helping them achieve their career milestones. Nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and grassroots initiatives play an important role in answering needs for community involvement and support.

Hotel owners play an important role in this ecosystem. Business owners can open the doors to a variety of professional development opportunities for job seekers. By providing support in the form of internships, on-the-job training, and work-based experiences for students, hotel owners can do their part in boosting local talent pools. This real-life work experience is important for students to explore a career path in hospitality, network with professionals in the field, and develop their practical skills. Public-private partnerships can increase the scalability and the impact of workforce development initiatives by leveraging their abundant resources.

Investing in staff is the real key to holistic workforce development, shifting away from measuring success purely on job performance.

An important component of supporting employees is ensuring they have ample opportunities to grow and upskill as a member of the organization based on their pathway interests. Creating actionable goals and benchmarks to assess progress and taking the extra time to intentionally incorporate staff development opportunities will lead to better outcomes for your organization’s overall growth and development, and the personal path of each individual staff member.

Tourist activities are bustling and busier than ever before, and there are many exciting opportunities and benefits from a career in hospitality. Consider how your staff development strategies can play a key role in growing your bottom line and support local economies while also providing staff with fulfilling, long-term careers.

As the CEO of Pipeline AZ, Amber Smith is focused on reducing poverty, by growing access to career exploration and pathways for children and adults alike by disrupting the workforce development space creating ecosystems where job-seeker skills align with industry needs. Amber is chair-elect for the Pima College Foundation Board, a board member for Higher Ground and was a founding board member/past chair of the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance.

Kim Grace Sabow serves as the president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association (AzLTA), where she leads the advocacy, communication, collaboration, and education efforts for one of the state’s leading industries. Prior to joining AzLTA, she served as Governor Ducey’s director of international affairs and as executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.


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