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Hotels are struggling to hire workers, and analysts think a lot of the recruiting issues have to do with lower pay and unclear career advancement opportunities. Hilton's new partnership can tackle both issues — if it gets enough employee participation.

A new continuing education program Hilton plans to offer this spring tackles an area where several hotel CEOs think the industry is falling short

Hilton is partnering with continuing education firm Guild Education to provide employees at the company’s owned and managed properties in the U.S. as well as corporate offices with new educational credentials, the two companies announced Wednesday. This includes things like English language learning, digital literacy, high school completion, professional certifications in areas like culinary skills and data analytics, and college degrees. Guild Education has similar partnerships with companies like Walmart, Disney, and fast casual restaurant chain Chipotle. 

But the partnership with Hilton arrives at a time when hotel industry leaders increasingly recognize they need to do more to promote career advancement as a way to address a labor shortage crisis. 

“This partnership with Guild Education – a first of its kind in our industry – is yet another way we will be able to better meet our Team Members where they are right now on their educational journeys and help them achieve their career aspirations,” Laura Fuentes, Hilton’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement. 

Roughly 45,000 employees across Hilton’s 203 owned and managed properties in the U.S. as well as the company’s reservations and customer care center and corporate offices will be eligible for the program. Hilton is picking up the tab for employees to pursue any of the educational offerings, but a company spokesperson told Skift there is no specific dollar amount tied to the partnership.

The Guild partnership also arrives at a time when the hotel industry appears to be coalescing around two major reasons for why there continues to be a labor shortage problem at hotels across the country: lower wages compared to competing industries like retail and lackluster marketing around career advancement. 

“It’s incumbent on us [and] incumbent on everybody in the room to tell the story of what a terrific set of industries it is and how easy it is to build a really productive career,” Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said at a New York University conference last year. “But we’ve got some heavy lifting to do.”

“We’re not known as the highest-paying industry or the one providing the most benefits,” former BWH Hotel Group CEO David Kong said during the same panel alongside Capuano.

A continuing education program would theoretically address both matters, as it offers a pathway to higher-paying jobs with credential requirements. But merely announcing a partnership doesn’t mean it is going to suddenly usher in a flood of upward mobility. 

Guild’s partnership at Walmart didn’t see a significant number of employees earning bachelor’s or associate degrees since 2018, according to a Bloomberg report last month. That study examined 56,000 workers who participated in the tuition assistance program, and only about 400 Walmart employees received their degree. 

A key ingredient to Hilton finding success here is making sure employees take advantage of the opportunity. Hilton maintains Guild is a best-in-class partner while also noting the company will “course-correct as we onboard programs and grow them over time,” a company spokesperson told Skift. 

The company spokesperson added the Guild partnership isn’t the only way for employees to develop skills, as there is also an internal job skilling platform that can serve as a foundation prior to earning a professional certification or associates degree. 

Hilton touted its already significant rate of retention as a sign employees are committed to working at the company: More than 40 percent of the company’s U.S. employees have been at Hilton for a decade or longer, according to Gretchen Stroud, Hilton’s senior vice president of talent and inclusion.

But the new partnership can provide better visibility to potential employees of how one can advance a career within the hotel industry. Hilton has nearly 2,900 open positions across the U.S.

“People are looking for a sense of purpose and of fulfilment. They want to know that the work they do all day has meaning and that they have a place to grow,” Fuentes later added via email to Skift. “By providing a robust employer value proposition and constantly looking to enhance it, we believe we can attract the best and the brightest to hospitality and continue to build our award-winning culture together.”

[UPDATE]: This story was updated following publication to include additional commentary from Fuentes.

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Tags: hilton, labor

Photo credit: Hilton plans to roll out a continuing education program this spring to employees at its owned and managed hotels in the U.S. as well as corporate offices and call centers. Matti Blume / Wikimedia

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