Government gives Hospitality Sask. $400K for worker recruitment, retention

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post Environment Minister Christine Tell announces funding into the province's hospitality industry at the Atlas Hotel on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Regina.

Alec Salloum

Regina Leader-Post

Jim Bence says the hospitality industry was the first to be hit during the pandemic and the slowest to recover.

That’s why the president and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan is so appreciative of $400,000 coming from the provincial government to help the industry recruit and retain workers.

“It was really a tough landscape,” Bence said of the labour market even pre-pandemic. “We’re competing with so many different industries.”

Support from the government during the slowdown of the pandemic was a “lifesaver,” he said during a funding announcement Tuesday.

While the money isn’t going directly toward wages or the creation of new positions within the industry, it will go toward “a sector plan to recruit, settle and retain local and international workers,” said a government news release.

The money is part of the provincial Labour Market Strategy which seeks to increase employment across Saskatchewan while also retaining workers across sectors.

Minister of Environment Christine Tell spoke Tuesday on behalf of Jeremy Harrison, minister of trade and export development, about the importance of the industry as the province grows.

“Hospitality and tourism play a significant role in the growth of our economy, driven by thousands of small- and medium-sized operations throughout the province,” she said.

“You want them to stay and grow throughout the industry and throughout whoever, whatever employer that they have.”

Tell said the industry is dealing with persistent labour shortages and the $400,000 will go toward the recruitment and retention of employees through various means, like an online human resources (HR) portal for businesses that may have trouble navigating employment supports.

“We know that to address labour shortages in the hospitality industry itself we will need to recruit workers both within Canada and abroad,” she said.

While the focus starts in Saskatchewan, Bence said national and international opportunities are also in industry sights as it looks to attract new people into the sector.

“Our recruiting efforts, as always, start with a priority on engaging in training and mobilizing in Saskatchewan,” he said. “We will be looking outside of our borders as well and be participating in career fairs throughout Canada and abroad.”

Bence said a focus will be placed on “building out” an online HR portal for recruits here and abroad.

“So many small- and medium-sized operators out there … don’t have an HR department or they don’t have access to an employee handbook template, those kinds of things,” he said.