The workforce crisis in Maine is pushing the tourism industry to take extra steps to find enough seasonal workers.
The Maine Tourism Association will soon launch a staffing service to connect its members with job seekers in Maine and other parts of the country.
âWe have seen successful tourist seasons year after year, and Maine’s unemployment hovers around 3%. This is great news, but it means there is a demand for employees that cannot be met by workers in Maine alone, âsaid Chris Fogg, executive director of the tourism association, in a statement from hurry.
In recent years, restaurants, hotels and attractions have had to close earlier or reduce their opening hours during the peak summer season because they did not have enough workers. The problem is acute on the coast of Maine, the state’s most popular tourist destination with a local seasonal labor shortage.
âAt some point, the concern is that labor shortages are starting to negatively impact the visitor experience,â Fogg said in an interview. âIf you don’t have enough staff to operate, you can’t give people the experience they expect. “
His group plans to hire a full-time staff member to find employees in other states, perform background checks, arrange transportation to Maine, and provide basic hospitality training.
One of the targets is seasonal workers in the western ski industry, such as Colorado or Utah, or those who work in winter vacation hot spots in Florida who might be convinced to move to Maine for the summer season. The approach is similar to what some companies in Maine have taken with their counterparts in other states, but the association wants to formalize those relationships, Fogg said.
The staffing service will also try to match Maine businesses that have complementary labor needs and can âshareâ workers in the peak winter and summer seasons.
A MORE AND MORE PROBLEM
A pilot program will run until 2019 for a handful of companies before the association extends it to all of its 1,500 members, Fogg said.
âI don’t think our idea is going to solve the problem, but it will help to help solve it,â he said.
Maine recorded 36.7 million tourist visits in 2017 and tourists spent about $ 6 billion, a five-year high, according to estimates from the Maine Tourism Board. About 106,800 people are employed directly and indirectly in the tourism industry, which includes accommodation, restaurants and food services, retail, entertainment and other businesses.
With so many sectors represented, it’s hard to determine how many jobs are unfilled on a seasonal basis, but it’s definitely a problem, said state economist Glenn Mills. The shortage is worse because people who worked seasonally in the past have found year-round jobs and there are fewer young people to take seasonal jobs, Mills said. A strict cap on the number of H-2B visas for temporary foreign workers, a program that businesses in Maine have relied on to supplement local workers, has exacerbated the problem, he said.
EBB AND WORKERS ‘FLOWS
Seasonal work forms a large part of the state’s tourism industry.
From July to September of last year, Maine’s accommodation and food services industry employed 69,650 people, a 44% increase from the start of the year. The workforce contracted to nearly 55,000 employees in the fall and early winter, a trend from previous years, according to statistics from the Maine Department of Labor. Arts, entertainment and recreation businesses have experienced similar seasonal growth, from around 8,000 employees in the winter to more than 11,000 in the height of summer.
The Maine Department of Labor has encouraged companies to hire teenagers to help fill the labor shortage, and last year Gov. Paul LePage suggested low-risk inmates could be given conditional commutations. to help fill vacancies.
OPTIMISM, OTHER BARRIERS
Laura Dolce, executive director of the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce, said she was “cautiously optimistic” that the tourism association’s initiative is a sign of momentum to address the continuing shortage of labor. -work. Labor issues were a major theme at last year’s governor’s conference on tourism, but Dolce felt nothing came of it.
“I think we’re still too early to tell, it’s good that there are conversations,” she said. If the tourism association can recruit new seasonal workers, Dolce said, it will still face expensive coastal housing and poor public transport that creates barriers for people who are likely to take seasonal jobs.
“I think it’s great that they have a staff member to bring in workers, but in order for this to make sense we need to address these two infrastructure issues,” she said.
Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or: