A newly convened Circle Michigan task force is moving forward on the issue of workforce development in the tourism industry.

David Hoekman, Group Tour magazine’s managing editor, talked with Justin Gifford, chairperson of the task force.

Q. What’s the goal of the initiative?

A. Our goal is to highlight areas around the state in tourism that are having issues with talent. Either there are not enough workers or the workers that are available do not have the skill sets they need.

Justin Gifford leads workforce development group for Circle Michigan
Justin Gifford

Locally, we created a hospitality committee that is working with the intermediate school district and two higher education institutions to formulate a certificate program to train employees in front desk interaction and housekeeping. This can be done at a lower cost than sending these employees to a training offered by the hotel chain.

So, we are hoping to identify intermediate school districts, community colleges, and colleges and universities around the state that have a training program or would be willing to develop one.

Our task force is also working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Q. What’s the best part of the task force?

A. For me, it’s getting the collective group to understand they’re not attacking this problem by themselves. We are working together to supply talent and give them the skill sets they need at a reasonable cost. Collectively, we can figure out how to become sustainable in talent. We have each other.

Circle Michigan Workforce Development Committee

Justin Gifford, chairperson, Visit Lenawee

Courtney Irish, co-chairperson, Flint & Genesee County CVB

Janet Kasic, Circle Michigan

Lisa Kukulski, Circle Michigan

Victoria Leonard, Pinnacle Hospitality

Melisa Brown, Soaring Eagle Casino

Bernadette Benkert, Muskegon CVB

Suzanne Thomas, Best Western Greenfield Inn

Jenise Collins, The Detroit Zoo

Susan Hatcher, Thunder Bay Resort

Patti Cornwell, Cornwell’s Turkeyville Dinner Theater

To contact Circle Michigan, call 800-513-6424 or go to circlemichigan.com.