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Skilled workers needed for tourism recovery

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Hundreds of tourism jobs are being left vacant in south-west Victoria and industry leaders say demand for skilled workers will skyrocket as the industry rebounds from COVID-19.

Prospective travel industry workers are being urged to start studying now to gain the qualifications and skills needed to fill the vacancies.

Industry leaders say the surging domestic tourism market is placing further strain on businesses unable to fill vacancies, and the reopening of international markets will add to the demand.

They are urging people to consider enrolling in South West TAFE’s tourism courses to ensure there are trained staff to meet the demand.

Grampians Tourism CEO Marc Sleeman said there were already 100 vacancies in the region for skilled staff and that figure was likely to grow.

“We’re seeing unprecedented levels of visitation coming back to the regions and a skilled workforce is a critical issue,” Mr Sleeman said.

“Our region has been fully booked for the past two and a half months. The challenge before opening was not enough people, now the challenge is managing the visitor flow and having enough skilled staff to cater for the growth in demand.”

Mr Sleeman said having access to a skilled and trained workforce was vital. “The work South West TAFE is doing is critical for the future of the visitor economy in the region. There are 100 jobs across our region at the moment and we need a skilled workforce.”

Great Ocean Road Tourism general manager Liz Price said tourism industry staffing issues had worsened in the past year. “We already had a workforce challenge and it has been exacerbated by the virus,” Ms Price said.

“There are jobs available now for the right people. We’ve seen a big shift out of the industry to get job security and we have businesses reducing their hours of operation to work within their staff limits.

“In some cases, there are jobs but no people applying for them.”

Ms Price said training was critical but systemic issues of working in a vulnerable industry need to be confronted to properly address workforce problems.

“It’s hard to know how long it will take for the industry to recover but I’m an optimist and we have significant investment happening and there are new products on the horizon that will create employment opportunities,” she said.

“We encourage people to think laterally about career opportunities the sector can provide. Many of us start in hospitality and build the foundations for moving into a breadth of roles that service the sector, such as marketing, stakeholder relations, training, accounting, design.”

South West TAFE tourism teacher Katrina Barnes said the industry needed to be ready for the rebound and the free TAFE tourism course was an ideal starting point.

“We all know it’s going to be tourism on steroids when we open up because everyone has missed it for so long,” Ms Barnes said.

“It’s a perfect time to study because the course is free and when you finish the industry will be picking up and there will be plenty of job opportunities for the right people.”

In 2018–19, Australia generated $60.8 billion in direct tourism gross domestic product and tourism directly employed 666,000 Australians so the sector will want staff as it recovers.

The surge in the Australian domestic market is already creating opportunities. “As long as we can keep COVID under control, more people will explore the Australian domestic market which will be fantastic,” Ms Barnes said. “Areas like the Grampians are booming and that’s a positive for our market.”

Ms Barnes predicted staff shortages in key tourism and hospitality areas. “A lot of people have left the industry because they can’t survive on JobKeeper as the payment has dropped, so there will be plenty of opportunities.”

South West TAFE’s Certificate III in Tourism teaches the travel agency reservation system and will this year introduce the accommodation reservation system and a tour guide module.

“The domestic market is already booming and the minute international borders open, travel agents, tour guiding and cruise ships will be back with a vengeance and there will be even more opportunities,” Ms Barnes said.