By Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo

The hospitality industry has to re-skill and upskill to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, said experts. 

“That is the best possible thing that anyone can do right now: to position yourself with the right skills and the right knowledge to jump immediately back in the industry,” said John Lohr, director of development, school relations at global hospitality network Hosco, in a recent webinar. 

Health and hygiene protocols have received more attention because of the pandemic. International and local hospitality companies, such as Hilton and Marivent Resort Hotel, Inc., are already implementing safety standards at their accommodations based on guidelines from public and private health organizations. The workforce must keep up with new knowledge if they hope to be chosen and retained by employers.

Soft skills like leadership, agility, stress resistance, and optimism are also in demand. Aside from allowing hospitality workers to manage their mental health, these skills are valuable in dealing with customers and colleagues.

“As it gets harder and they have to lay people off, how do they deal with that… What skills do they need to manage their people better and to have empathy and to understand?” said Andy Cuthbert, general manager of the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel in the United Arab Emirates. “It’s understanding what is the reaction to your action,” he added. The hotel conducts leadership training sessions for their employees online. 

According to Mr. Lohr, there will be a talent shortage in the hospitality industry during the pandemic recovery period. The École hôtelière de Lausanne, a Swiss hospitality management school, reported that an increasing expectation for workers to use technology has pushed out older talent and those who are less familiar with technology.

To address this gap, hospitality companies and organizations should consider partnering with academia to create curricula. This relationship will also shorten the time it takes for students to enter the workforce. One possible execution is offering short courses backed by a school.

“It’s about more bite-sized learning and learning additional skills without necessarily going through school for two to three years, which takes people out of the workplace,” said Jeremy Dahdi, executive director for international and digital credentialing at City & Guilds, an organization for work-based qualifications.

Another option is to certify workers who acquired their skills by learning on the job instead of attending school. City & Guilds, for example, offers global hospitality certification for jobs across culinary, food and beverage, front of house, and housekeeping.

“One of the great things about the global certification is that you can achieve a digital credential to recognize your skills that is transportable. You can then take that anywhere in the world and still be recognized,” said Mr. Dahdi.

Held this July, the “The Future of Work in Hospitality” webinar was part of Food & Hotel Digital Week, organized by Saladplate, an online marketplace designed for food and hotel professionals.