The demand for tourism workers in Wisconsin is exceeding supply.

The chronic shortage is prompting businesses and educators to develop new strategies to attract workers and train the next generation of managers in a quickly growing industry, according to the Press-Gazette Media.

Tourism was an $18.5 billion industry in 2014 and accounts for almost 200,000 jobs in Wisconsin. Blue Harbor Resort, Spa and Conference Center in Sheboygan, The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake and Destination Kohler partnered this spring with nearby Lakeland College to help train employees.

“With an indoor water park and a large conference center, we’ve got very good business year round, but that doesn’t mean it’s really easy to get, and keep, employees,” said David Sanderson, vice president and general manager for Blue Harbor. “The challenge becomes internal with our management team, ‘What do we do as leaders to make us more of an employer of choice?'”

It offers students entry-level positions or internships while also help addressing the need of finding and keeping qualified employees.

He said that goes beyond pay to offering benefits and partnering with Lakeland College, which offers a hospitality management program.

“If they come in as a freshman, when they graduate they’re going to have the equivalent or two years of work experience,” Sanderson said. “We think that’s a win for the employer, a win for Lakeland in its ability to recruit more students, and it’s a win for the employee because they should be able to leverage that into better job opportunities.”

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development said it expects jobs in the hospitality sector to grow 9 percent by 2022.

Heavy tourism spots such as Door County, Wisconsin Dells and Lake Geneva sometimes end up having to hire workers from other countries.

Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay, which is in Door County, is a 75-room resort that includes lodging, five cabins, a buffet-style restaurant and pub. It is operated by 45 staff members, about 15 fewer than the ideal staffing level.

“The people I have are amazing, but there’s not quite enough of them. Ever,” said owner and manager Jewel Peterson Ouradnik.

The resort is about an hour away from Sturgeon Bay, the largest city in the county, and many nearby residents are retired.

“We want to hire Americans above anything, we want to keep our jobs in the states,” Peterson Ouradnik said, adding that not enough Americans apply.

“I spent all winter interviewing by Skype … to find out if they’re a good fit for us.”


Information from: Press-Gazette Media,

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Tags: jobs, wisconsin
Photo Credit: Some Wisconsin hotels and a tourism board are facing a shortage in attracting qualified employees and are reaching out to a local college to train students and give them incentives to see tourism as a career. Pictured is a chef at the Blue Harbor Resort, Spa and Conference Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Blue Harbor Resort, Spa and Conference Center