Statewide, the travel and tourism industry directly employs 105,500 people, a number that increased 23 percent between 2003 and 2015, according to Travel Oregon. “Visitors to the Central Coast spent almost $700 million in 2017, a number that is expected to continue to grow as Portland’s population increases,” says Marcus Hinz, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.
Many hospitality businesses along the Coast are small enterprises — five or fewer employees — and the owner-operators wear many hats. The time they spend recruiting and training new employees is time they could be spending on countless other critical tasks. “Being able to hire from a trained, local workforce is absolutely critical,” says Kristin Roslund, co-owner of the Overleaf Lodge & Spa in Yachats. “Tourism provides a great opportunity for job seekers. As a community, we need to provide them with a pathway to receive the skills they need to get hired and keep jobs in the hospitality industry.”
Roslund reached out to Wendy Popkin, executive director of Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association’s Education Foundation, to seek help designing a hospitality workforce training program to fill this educational gap. After receiving grants from Travel Oregon and the Siletz Tribal Charitable Fund and support from OCVA, Oregon SBDC Network, Northwest Oregon Works and Worksource Oregon, Roslund’s vision has become a reality.
Two workforce training programs — one for high school students and one for the general public — now being offered to South Lincoln County residents free of charge could elevate the level of professionalism along the Coast while connecting residents with well-paying jobs.
Common ground, accredited courses
The training program known as Oregon Guest Service Gold uses internationally accredited certifications created by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute to teach essential skills for different jobs. These include front desk, restaurant and in housekeeping positions as well as guest service. Participants can also earn Oregon state permits, including the OLCC alcohol servers card and the Food Handlers Card, which are required for certain jobs.
“As a business owner, I can have the confidence that if someone has gone through this program, they have been trained properly,” Roslund says.
Accessing the program
Residents of South Lincoln County can enroll in the workforce training program at either Waldport High School or through the Oregon Coast Community College (OCCC) in Lincoln City, Oregon. All registrations go through the OCCC website.
The classes at Waldport High School will be taught by Melissa Steinman, a teacher who has designed many programs over the years aimed at helping students learn about and get adequate training for jobs in coastal tourism and rural marketing.
In Lincoln City, classes are taught by longtime Lincoln City restaurateur and corporate dining service trainer, Judy Hardy. The program is funded by the Oregon SBDC Network, Northwest Oregon Works and Worksource Oregon, and is supported by the Lincoln City Culinary Center and OCCC.
“Right out of the gate, graduates of the program will be able to demonstrate to future employers that they are skilled and are motivated to take on a higher level of responsibility,” says Dave Price, director of the Small Business Development Center at OCCC. “They will likely receive more competitive wages and be more satisfied with their job.”
“We hope the program will become a model for other coastal communities and the entire state of Oregon,” Roslund says.