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TORONTO — The Future Skills Centre (FSC) and the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC) are launching a rapid-response project for the hundreds of thousands of tourism and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The goal is to equip these displaced workers to be able to navigate an uncertain future and get new skills for changing jobs by understanding and supporting their immediate needs; mapping their skills and assets; and finding and implementing, in real-time, new approaches to digitally reskilling and upskilling. 

The project includes an online platform where workers will find immediate services to support resilience during the crisis. Through the platform, displaced workers will access information about COVID-19-related government benefits, training, certifications, tourism-and-hospitality job opportunities and job options in related industries.  

The platform will also provide support for businesses. Employers will be able to support employees while they are laid off, track the stages of recovery and respond to new realities — as the industry adapts, new business models arise and workers will need, for example, new training in safety and protective equipment and spacing.

The project will be launched in phases and tested in Ontario first. FSC and OTEC are working with industry partners, including Tourism HR Canada, to look for opportunities to share and scale the project in other provinces. In Ontario, industry partners in the project include the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC), Tourism HR Canada and Tourism SkillsNet Ontario.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the tourism-and-hospitality sector has been rapid and devastating,” says OTEC president and CEO Adam Morrison. “Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are now out of work and need help. Through this project, and the broad collaboration it represents, our industry will come out of this crisis more resilient and better prepared to respond in difficult times such as these.”

This initiative brings together OTEC’s experience in scaled collaboration with employers, community-employment networks and workers; and FSC and its consortium partners’ expertise in research, testing of approaches, digital solutions and evaluation to better understand what works, how and for whom. FSC consortium partners working on this initiative include Blueprint, The Conference Board of Canada and Ryerson’s Magnet.

“At Future Skills Centre, we’re focusing our energy on building a forward-looking strategy to support Canada’s shift into the ‘reset’ and ‘rebuild’ phases of economic recovery,” says FSC executive director Pedro Barata. “This partnership will create and test prototypes to directly connect and support tourism and hospitality workers now and give us a roadmap for sustainable solutions that can help with the long-term rebuild of our economy.”

FSC is investing $2.25 million in this rapid-response project. This initiative in the tourism-and-hospitality sector will create a foundation for FSC to support other sectors and organizations across the country in testing how innovative approaches to skills development can contribute to “shock-proofing” our labour force. The centre will launch a skills innovation response fund in May 2020.

“Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan is providing Canadians and businesses in sectors across the country, including the tourism-and-hospitality sector, with the help they need to face these unprecedented challenges” says Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. “Partnerships like this one will help position the industry and its workforce for success, as we emerge from the crisis.”


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