Dale J. Venturini
President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association
With most of Rhode Island’s COVID-19 restrictions and protocols lifted at the end of May, including its mask mandate for fully-vaccinated individuals and capacity limitations for businesses, the hospitality industry finds itself in prime position to begin the path towards recovery just in time for the busy summer season. With vaccines readily available, and more than 50% of Rhode Islanders already fully-vaccinated, we are now in a position to fulfill pent-up consumer demand while continuing to follow best practices to keep our patrons and staff safe and healthy. While our industry is embracing this long-awaited return to normal, many operators are still facing one important challenge: staffing.
Many of our restaurants, hotels and industry partners are experiencing extreme difficulty in finding enough staff to meet the needs of our state’s rejuvenated consumer demand. Many of our industry’s workers are choosing to stay home, or take different types of jobs for a variety of reasons. From the still very real concern about COVID-19 and workplace safety, to continuing federal and state unemployment benefits, limited access to childcare, and the fear of the industry once again being targeted by government restrictions, many individuals are still hesitant to seek work in hospitality right now.
Unfortunately, as long as the worker shortage persists, our industry will be slow to fully recover. But, there is action being taken. Rhode Island’s recently-enacted workforce legislation allows those receiving unemployment benefits to get back to work and earn up to 150% of their unemployment insurance benefit amount before they are no longer eligible for unemployment. This legislation incentivizes workers to seek employment, as some of their unemployment benefits are now protected. However, as of May 23, a “search for work” requirement has gone into effect, which requires those collecting unemployment benefits to prove that they are actively searching for work and that they are not turning down offers for employment.
To provide assistance to both job seekers and employers alike, the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) recently launched the “Rhode Island Hospitality Jobs” website: a convenient resource for our members to post job openings and for job seekers to easily identify local opportunities in the industry through the use of a simple search tool. For employers, the website also offers additional resources to help recruitment efforts including: insight into what today’s employees are looking for, advice on how to attract Millennial and Gen Z workers, and tips on how to write an attractive and effective job posting. For anyone looking for work in the industry, this tool will easily identify and filter open jobs based on search preferences, qualifications and availability.
For those actively seeking work in Rhode Island, I can assure you that the hospitality sector is the state’s industry of opportunity. There are many benefits to seeking a career in hospitality, from flexible hours and great pay, to on-the-job training, opportunities to advance, and much more. If safety is your concern, please consider the fact that our industry was far-and-away the most heavily regulated throughout the course of the pandemic, and our operators and existing staff have not only been rigorously trained to implement the best health and safety practices, but that they take their responsibilities very seriously.
Whether you have experience working at restaurants or hotels, or are completely new to the industry, there is a place that is just right for you and RIHA is here to help you find it. After all, in Rhode Island, hospitality matters!