Developing and retaining the workforce is a primary need along the Coast. To better learn what businesses along the Coast need and how they prefer to receive help with training employees, OCVA in June 2018 partnered with Oregon Sea Grant/Oregon State University (OSU) Extension to fund a workforce needs assessment survey. The survey garnered 186 responses from employers along the entire Coast.

Respondents represented a wide range of management positions, including owners, managers and presidents. Not surprisingly, customer service was one of the top subject areas in which respondents said they need help. In response, OCVA is planning to continue partnering with OSU Extension, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) Education Foundation and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute to provide training for Oregon Guest Service Gold, an internationally accredited certification customized to the Oregon hospitality and tourism industry. In 2018, OCVA offered $15,000 in scholarships for employees of tourism industry businesses to attend Oregon Guest Service Gold, which was well-received. More than 200 frontline staff completed the program this year.

“Building off the findings of this most recent workforce needs assessment survey, as well as feedback from participants in 2018 Oregon Guest Service Gold trainings, we’re excited to work with OSU Extension faculty to deliver trainings that respond to the needs of different communities and employers along the Coast,” says Arica Sears, OCVA’s strategic communications coordinator.

In 2019, employers along the Coast will be able to once again apply for financial assistance to send their frontline staff to attend Guest Service Gold Oregon. A total of $15,000 in scholarship funding is available, with each employer being able to receive up to $1,000.

“The survey reinforced that the majority of organizations are willing and able to pay for workforce education but they need the trainings to meet their specific needs,” says Miles Phillips, associate professor, Tourism & Business Development – OSU Extension Service. “We see the need for customized programs based on business size, type of operation and season. Working with OCVA, ORLA, Travel Oregon and other partners, OSU Extension is excited to help respond to industry expressed needs and desires for training and research when it comes to developing and retaining the workforce on the Coast.”

Survey respondents expressed a need for training programs focused on housekeeping, staff management/human resource Issues, and marketing. In response, a more thorough hospitality training will be offered through OSU Extension to provide tourism employees with six different skills-based certifications such as Guest Room Attendant, Front Desk Agent, Alcohol Server License and Oregon Food Handlers Permit.

For those who identified marketing as a program interest, the desired training topics included social media and online reputation management, with Facebook as the most desired training topic. In response, OSU Extension and the Small Business Development Center are offering a social media training in Coos Bay on Jan. 24, 2019.