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Labor, tourism officials tackle workforce issues

Most every industry is experiencing issues with workforce development and labor.

A pair of groups gathered people together last week to brain storm ideas of how to address those issues when it comes to tourism and hospitality in West Tennessee.

Old Country Store and Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development brought representatives from different areas of tourism and hospitality in the region together to discuss their obstacles and what’s working for each of them.

“Listening sessions like this allow us to address the industry’s unique needs with solutions that reflect the true dynamics of regional economies,” said Kayce Beam, the regional director for Southwest Tennessee in the state’s Labor & Workforce Development.

Brooks Shaw, the owner and general manager of the Old Country Store, led the discussion with about 30 people present, representing chambers of commerce for multiple counties, hotels, marketing and other restaurants in the area.

“We know that just about everyone has really had to deal with staffing issues, and I know for those of us in restaurants, that’s definitely been something we’ve had to deal with since COVID,” Shaw said.

Hotel representatives said they’ve had to adapt their scheduling and staffing methods to the people who are available and willing to work.

That means they’ve altered their staff to where there are more part-time employees at their hotel than there have been in the past because most employees desire flexibility in scheduling, and that flexibility is difficult if they’re full-time.

Childcare is a reason that flexibility is needed, so hotel managers said they’ve become more willing to bring people on part time so they can come in after they get their children to school and get off before school is over each day.

“Childcare may be the biggest thing affecting us. Is it that way for y’all too?” Brooks asked restaurant managers in the room, to which a number of hands went up.

The group talked through a number of those issues to essentially gauge where different businesses are in dealing with them and begin a long-term conversation about how to successfully address them.

They also discussed different things they’re doing that are successful or give them hope for the future.

Shaw said one thing Old Country Store is doing is providing different avenues for the younger generation to come to Casey Jones Village and experience different things there, so that when they’re older they hopefully have a number of positive memories in their brain that would make them want to try working there when they’re an adult.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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