Creating Opportunities for Youth in Hospitality

Executive Summary

Creating Opportunities for Youth in Hospitality

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The hospitality industry is entering a period of worldwide growth. The travel and tourism sector as a whole currently employs more than 255 million people around the globe, and it will create 73 million new jobs by 2022. The hotel segment of the hospitality industry is especially healthy and is predicted to grow from $584 billion in 2010 to $848 billion by the close of 2015.1 Even as the industry is challenged to hire staff for rapid growth, 75 million people ages 15–24 are unemployed. The International Labour Organization describes the youth employment outlook as “dire” and, like the International Youth Foundation (IYF), calls for urgent action.2

Creating Opportunities for Youth in Hospitality discusses the hospitality sector’s extraordinary opportunity to develop a trained workforce while helping young people around the world obtain good jobs, begin careers, and improve prospects for themselves, their households, and their communities. The hospitality industry is already a major employer of young people, but simply creating more jobs will not be enough to address youth unemployment if young people are not equipped with the range of skills needed to compete for and succeed in hospitality positions. This paper discusses three barriers that prevent many young people from entering or staying in the hospitality sector: (1) youth lack information about the nature and extent of meaningful careers in the hospitality industry; (2) many youth are not suitably qualified for entry-level or advanced opportunities; and, (3) many talented young people do not pursue long-term careers in the industry. This paper shows how hospitality industry employers can overcome these barriers and turn them into win-win opportunities for their businesses and for youth through smart investments in pre-employment initiatives, on-the-job training, and partnerships with community stakeholders.

Further, this paper identifies the following three actions hospitality companies should take to create opportunities for youth:

  1. Design a companywide strategy for youth development. An organizational commitment to youth development, such as Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ Bright Blue Futures,3 will enable hospitality companies to set ambitious targets, obtain socially significant results, tailor programs to address local needs, and stay focused over the long term. To keep pace with the industry’s growth projections, youth development activities should be widely accessible and scalable. In addition to training a skilled workforce, a companywide response will foster brand allegiance, promote loyalty internally, enable the company to learn from young people about how to better reach their peers, and enhance the image of the hospitality sector as a whole.
  2. Build knowledge for the company, the industry, and other stakeholders in youth well-being. At no time in the past has an industry looked to confront the challenge of youth unemployment at the scale that is currently required. However, a great deal of information that is critical to successful youth development efforts is unavailable. In addition to the potential benefits a bold youth initiative will bring to young people and the hospitality industry, it presents an enormous new learning opportunity. Whether designing innovative e-learning methodologies or assessing the effectiveness of apprenticeship programs for disadvantaged youth, the industry has a rare opportunity to fill knowledge gaps that span sectors. Through its efforts to prepare young people for employment, the hospitality industry can make a significant contribution not only to youth around the world, but also to the broader business, research, and development communities.
  3. Develop measures of accountability and progress. The industry would benefit from tools that help it assess the condition of youth over time and inform investments in youth employment initiatives. In response to the crucial need for such instruments, Hilton Worldwide and IYF are developing a Youth Well-being Index and a Hospitality Industry Impact Framework. The Index will summarize data on youth well-being in key domains—such as education, employment, and youth outlook. Using a subset of the domains and indicators from the Index, the Hospitality Industry Impact Framework will allow users to evaluate the extent to which the hospitality industry is mobilizing its resources and expertise to contribute to youth development. Such tools can stimulate interest and investment in youth well-being in countries around the globe and can help track progress toward youth development goals that are relevant to the hospitality industry and society as a whole.

The global hospitality sector has a unique and timely collection of resources and capacities that it can leverage to address the challenge of youth employment. By doing so, it can fulfill its own needs for a trained workforce while empowering young people around the world to acquire the means and achieve the stability they need to enter adulthood with renewed hope for a bright future. For the well-being of youth and the hospitality industry, the time to act is now.

1. Global Hotels and Motels Industry Profile (New York: Datamonitor, 2011).
2. Opportunity for Action: Preparing Youth for 21st Century Livelihoods (Baltimore: International Youth Foundation, 2012); The Youth Employment Crisis: A Time for Action (Geneva: ILO, 2012).
3. Bright Blue Futures is Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ global community relations program designed to bring stability and hope to young people worldwide. youth.hilton.com.