Roger Dow, the outgoing CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, is launching a venture that addresses the nation's hospitality workforce crunch.
Called Future Work Solutions (FWS), the company will connect vetted and pre-qualified workers with hotels and convention centers that need them to supplement their existing staff.
The company will use an app to connect workers with employers.
Dow partnered with Mike Gamble, president of Searchwide, an executive recruitment firm for companies in the tourism, hospitality and convention business, He said the venture will go live in the next few months.
There are currently 1.3 million leisure and hospitality job vacancies, Dow said, according to the latest national jobs report. He said those jobs are "basically unfillable" because there are not enough people available to work. And while the rest of the economy is at 2019 levels or above with jobs, travel and tourism "is pulling everything down," he said. "It's a systemic problem."
FWS is looking beyond positions and bodies to fill them. It considers demographic trends, the changing workforce and community needs to provide a way to both fill jobs and provide upward mobility for workers.
Dow said that he and Gamble are uniquely able to provide companies and hospitality workers what other employment apps don't, because they understand the industry's needs.
"Our perspective is for the industry, by the industry," Dow said. "There are a lot of apps out there, but they don't understand our industry. They don't have people in the industry. So what we want to do is go city-by-city, work with the convention bureau, the convention center, the mayor, the economic development associations, the Hispanic Chamber, the Black Chamber and say, 'Let's all work together on building the workforce.'"
FWS is in talks with the CEOs of major chains, Dow said, because "It's something that each organization can't do on their own. The idea is to fill these jobs. It's hurting their revenue. They're trying job fairs: it's not working.
"There's a workforce out there," Dow added, "but they don't want to work the same old way where they go in the backdoor of a hotel, get a job, get the lousy shifts and work five days a week. They are saying, 'I'd like to tell you when I want to work.' This younger workforce is saying they want flexibility, balance of life and choice."
Noting that there are now almost twice the number of Gen Y and Gen Z workers compared to boomers, Dow said it is imperative to create opportunities that match their lifestyle. The FWS app will enable them to work when they can, and for companies to let them know when they need workers.
"Someone might work at a Marriott on a Monday, Hilton on a Wednesday or not work at all that week, or work in housekeeping one day and work as convention service setup another day," he said.
Workers use the app to say when and where they will work and what they want to do. They will get jobs pitched to them by the companies that have holes during those times and in those departments. Dow said the idea is to pick up the shortfalls: a hotel may have 20 full-time housekeepers and can fill in the other 10 as needed with a temporary workforce through the app.
Dow said that the app will enable companies to cut costs, improve revenue and increase customer satisfaction. For the workers, FWS is looking to create opportunities for "upward mobility to the middle class" by working with communities and providing training for jobs in hospitality. The app also enables the growing number of people who want to work remotely to pick up jobs based on where they are, whether it be seasonal or even just for a few weeks.
The app will use facial recognition with a QR code for the check-in process.