Program Puts Young People on the Path to Hospitality Careers

Many hotels across the country are facing a critical labor shortage. According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there are more than 900,000 job openings in the hospitality sector. At the same time, there are nearly six million “opportunity youth” in the United States — young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and out of work.

Recognizing that a four-year college degree is not the only path to career success, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF) launched the Empowering Youth Project to train opportunity youth for jobs in the hospitality industry.

AHLA and AHLEF have partnered with leading national nonprofit Grads of Life and committed $500,000 in grants for local community organizations to train 1,000 young people in high-demand markets, including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore, over the next two years. This groundbreaking effort was supported by a National Network Innovation Grant.

Opportunity youth have the grit and determination to succeed in the workforce, so these grants provide participants with both the training and access to future employers to get a foot in the door. And, by providing the youth with the competency-based AHLA Certified Guest Service Professional certification, AHLA and AHLEF can teach them the skills they need to be successful in a variety of jobs within the hospitality industry.

In addition to training and placing youth into hospitality jobs in 2018, AHLA was also thrilled to begin changing the narrative for opportunity youth in the hotel sector as a whole. As an example, AHLA member Hyatt Hotels launched a public initiative to hire 10,000 opportunity youth by 2025.

Hotel management companies like Concord Hospitality applauded the project and unveiled their public commitment to continue to hire youth from the AHLA project. An AHLA program graduate was even selected to be featured at the White House for the Pledge to the American Worker event in July 2018.

AHLA plans to continue investing in and growing its presence in the four established markets, while also expanding training into additional communities in 2019. The organization is also looking to build tools for hotel members to make the program scalable across the country.

With a tightening labor market, the demand for talent in the hospitality industry is greater than ever. By connecting youth to opportunities in the hotel industry and providing them with the tools and training they need to succeed, AHLA is helping address the labor shortage, investing in the workforce and local communities and developing the next generation of hoteliers.