PRLA Restaurant & Lodging Matters Winter 2022

6 • PENNSYLVANIA RESTAURANT & LODGING matters • Winter 2022 CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE Changing the Conversation I’M HONORED TO be taking the reins as PRLA’s 81st chairman of the board. I also am grateful to Bill Covaleski and Jim Fris who, in the early days of the pandemic, willingly and without hesitation stepped forward to remain in their leadership roles for two years. My primary goal for the year ahead is workforce development. We have long been saddled with staffing and employment concerns. Our industry needs to evolve and change the conversation around our workforce opportunities. As leaders in the industry, it is up to us to generate interest in working in our businesses. We need to engage with young people, particularly high school students and first-job employees, about the opportunities for career growth, development, and advancement. Individuals entering the hospitality industry workforce today have more opportunities for a career pathway with rapid advancement than ever before. But we need to overcome some obstacles of our own making. Over the years, our industry as garnered a largely negative reputation in the workforce. For too long and for too many of us, the industry has worn long hours as a badge of honor and tolerated poor company culture as the way it is. It’s time to shift our collective mindset to one that advocates for life balance, career opportunities, and positive environments. Industry reputation and workforce development go hand in hand. Many people left the industry during the pandemic because they had to, exacerbating an already tenuous staffing issue. To fill this void, we need more young people to be passionate about our industry, and that starts with building excitement and opportunity at the high school level. PRLA already offers two programs, ProStart and HTM, for high school curriculums but school districts only bring them in when there is enough interest by the students. I encourage our members to get involved to help generate interest in our industry. You can volunteer to sit on your school district’s occupational advisory councils or speak to students in hospitality clubs like DECA and FBLA, open your business for job tours or shadowing, or volunteer with ProStart, just to name a few ideas. PRLA has tools available to help you get started. Education is the long game but it’s a game we need to play to change the conversation and overcome staffing challenges. The trajectory for success is better today than ever before for young people entering the industry. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge is an investment in the future.” • As leaders in the industry, it is up to us to generate interest in working in our businesses. Tom Neely THOMAS A. STRAUSS INC. LANCASTER CHAPTER