Monday, July 28, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 41 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Older workers are staying put

The visitor industry has increased efforts to attract younger employees to provide balance with veterans

By Allison Schaefers


George Lemson will mark 24 years at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa this week, but he still lights up like a kid when he talks about his job as sous-chef and said that he has no immediate plans to leave.

"The Pacific Rim cuisine movement is very exciting, and I like working close to my family and being around our beautiful islands and ocean. Being an island boy, to me there are no other people in the world like the local people," Lemson said. "It's the same for other people, too. We have managers who have been here since the hotel opened in 1976."

At age 52, Lemson is one of many Hawaii visitor industry managers who are contributing to a trend: More than half of the state's accommodations managers are over age 45, and nearly 25 percent are over 55 years old. At the same time, Hawaii tourism officials have noted that fewer local youth are pursuing tourism degrees and jobs.

While older workers bring much to the table in terms of skills, experience, attitude and teaching capabilities, Hawaii's visitor industry needs a balance of older and younger workers so the intellectual capital gets passed from one generation to the next, said David Uchi­yama, vice president of brand management for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

"Our workforce is aging," Uchi­yama said. "We need to work on recruiting younger kids who were raised here and understand the cultural values into the management of the hotel industry, or eventually we could lose what differentiates Hawaii from other destinations."

The workforce is a mirror of the population as a whole, which is aging across the country and in Hawaii, said Bruce Bottorff, associate state director for Hawaii's AARP. To be sure, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated earlier this year that nearly 2 million older workers have entered the workforce since the last recession, making the percentage of workers over age 65 the highest it's been since 1965. The bureau said there are 7.7 million people over age 65 working and that they make up about 18.5 percent of the workforce. Moreover, the bureau has reported that the percentage of even older workers, ages 75 and up, has grown to 7.8 percent, nearly double the percentage from 1987. There are now 1.4 million workers over 75, the most ever, according to the bureau.

"Since the turn of the millennium, we've seen more older workers staying in their jobs or even those who weren't previously looking for work move back into the labor force in order to support themselves," said San Francisco-based BLS economist Tian Luo.

Bottorff said as many as 50 percent of Hawaii residents over age 50, who were surveyed by the AARP about a year ago, said they would delay retirement by up to five years, and a quarter of them said they might never retire.

But while the number of older workers has been growing in Hawaii and nationwide, the opposite appears to be true for the younger set. Nationwide the number of workers ages 20 to 24 has declined 6.3 percent since 2000, Luo said.

"It appears to be tougher for younger generation fresh out of college to find jobs," Luo said. "They are competing with lots of people who already have job experience."

While Luo does not have specific age-related labor force data for Hawaii or for the state's visitor industry, Hawaii's tourism officials say there are signs that the state is following these national trends. Businesses throughout Hawaii report that fewer workers are retiring early and that many are staying on the job longer, even ones for whom work has become physically challenging.

"Since 2009 I'd say most of our workers have delayed retirement," said Mitch Sipi­ala, senior director of human resources for the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. "Even when the jobs are physically challenging, we see people that are forced to continue the work, so we are constantly trying to re-purpose people."

Knowledge that these workers will eventually retire has motivated Hawaii's visitor industry to step up recruitment of young managers from the islands.

Nona Tamanaha, regional director of human resources for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii, said approximately 30 percent of the hotel chain's associates and managers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years in Waikiki and between 10 to 15 percent of them on the neighbor islands.

"Housekeeping, stewards and engineering will have a higher percentage of retirees than other departments, which could be problematic," Tama­naha said.

Starwood works hard at recruitment and has not seen a decline in applications for employment from the younger generation or those who are just entering the workforce, she said.

"We do a lot with the schools, especially the high schools, community colleges, Hawaii Pacific University, Brigham Young University and the University of Hawaii," Tama­naha said.

Starwood participates in career and shadowing days and job fairs, she said. Uchi­yama said the state also has partnered with visitor industry employers, schools and nonprofits like ClimbHI, which works to prevent kids from dropping out. Together they try to get Hawaii students thinking about careers in the visitor industry at a younger age.

ClimbHI founder Julie Mori­kawa and the HTA last year launched Leadership, Exploration and Inspiration (LEI), which connected 300 high school students from economically disadvantaged areas on Oahu with leaders in the state's visitor industry. This year LEI will expand to 500 students.

"We see ourselves as a link between businesses and opportunities and our youth," Mori­kawa said.

Konrad Talon, a 2010 University of Hawaii Travel Industry Management (TIM) School graduate, said workforce development programs such as LEI make a difference.

Talon, who is now an assistant guest services manager at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, said if not for the Academy of Travel and Tourism at his Maui high school, he would not have graduated from college or considered a career in tourism.

"Taking this class as an elective is what really drove my interest," Talon said. "I come from a family of not well-educated individuals. We didn't talk about tourism opportunities at the dinner table."

Morikawa also knows the transforming power of Hawaii's visitor industry, which helped her rise from a challenging background to become Expedia's director of market management in Hawaii.

"If I hadn't had that exposure through dancing, I wouldn't have been able to see what was possible," she said. "We need to reach Hawaii students before those that are struggling quit or those that are moving on choose a college or a career."

Though Morikawa began her career in the eastern U.S., she was strongly motivated to return.

"If we all leave and don't come back, there's no Hawaii. I strongly believe that we need to find ways to keep the locals and the culture here," she said.

Most agree that Hawaii needs an age-balanced visitor industry workforce made up of employees who understand the host culture, but there are hurdles to overcome. In some cases, concerns about the disparity between pay rates in Hawaii and the price of paradise have enticed young people to move away or choose other fields. In other cases, young people interrupt their studies to take jobs, especially in food and beverage, that bring instant pay gratification. Academic pathways are another stumbling block, Uchi­yama said. Many of Hawaii's students, who want to be visitor industry managers, begin their degrees at state community colleges only to find that they can't get enough credit when they try to transfer to the TIM School.

"The TIM School is working with us to create a natural pathway," Uchi­yama said. "It costs money and time when kids lose credits."

The university and the industry lose out, too, Uchi­yama added.

"As I started to get into this deeper, I realized that when kids that had intended to go into travel industry management saw that their credits didn't transfer, they started to look for other academic paths," he said. "Others left the state to enroll in schools like the University of Nevada-Las Vegas that accepted their credits."

The state's geographic isolation and high cost of living also weigh heavily on older and younger workers. Since workers can't drive to the next city or state to find a different job, visitor industry managers who want to stay in the islands typically hang on to jobs longer than their mainland peers.

"If this is your preferred place to live, the work becomes secondary," Sipi­ala said. "People prefer to be here, and sometimes they will self-select not to pursue jobs at a higher level."

This in turn means that there are fewer middle-management jobs available to younger workers, and many must seek transfers to the mainland or abroad to continue growing, he said.

"Some of my older workers block progression because they are sitting in the path of my high-achievers," Sipi­ala said. "But they are often highly skilled, and they make great mentors for our younger workers who need that leadership."

Kyle Higa, a 31-year-old chef tournant at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, said staying in Hawaii and working under sous-chef Lemson has afforded him advantages that he would not have found elsewhere.

"There are a lot more opportunities on the mainland, but it's a smaller network here, so I get to work directly with the people that I've heard about all of my life," Higa said. "On the mainland I'd never see the sous-chef."

Still, Lemson said at times it's challenging to make younger Hawaii workers aware of what local businesses offer.

"Sometimes we have to hire people who don't have the cultural background," he said. "They don't have a local palate, so the learning curve is high."

Jerry Westenhaver, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, said he addressed some of these concerns with the recent hire of Hawaiian cultural practitioners Aka Oclinaria and April Chock, who serve as employee and guest resources. He also assigns managers to leadership groups, where they share stories, read books and listen to speakers.

"We are trying to help our people get to the next level," said Westenhaver, whose goal is to promote 29 managers internally this year. "Either you grow or you deteriorate. We don't want people to stay where they are. We need to move people around so that they have better opportunities."

After a few years on the job in Hawaii, Sipi­ala encourages the best and brightest to consider transferring to other hotels in the chain where they will have more opportunity to advance.

"Last year I transferred 14 managers to other hotels," Sipi­ala said. "We like to bring them back whenever we get the chance."

For instance, 80 percent of last year's management hires were homegrown, he said.

Scott Pirscher, who graduated from the TIM School in 2011 and now works as the housekeeping manager at the Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii island, said most upwardly mobile young managers in Hawaii's visitor industry expect that they might need to relocate at some point in their career.

"It's a very competitive industry," Pirscher said, "but I still think it is one of the better career choices that you can make in Hawaii."

 Print   Email   Comment | View 41 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
As in any industry that is competitive, starting wages may not be what is needed or wanted. I think older workers need to recognize that younger workers need to or want to start in your industry. If u do not help them get started in your field, u may end up costing such "things" as adequate customer service, which will drive away customers from your Hotel or Restaurant as the case may be. Consider the alternatives, as Mr. Spock of the USS Enterprise would say (Star Trek, circa 1966 to 1968) which occurred like almost 50 years ago. Omg, is William Shatner still around, that fat dude ??!!!
on December 23,2012 | 04:17AM
allie wrote:
Let's face it: Older workers cannot afford to retire.
on December 23,2012 | 07:47AM
what wrote:
Many old folks didn't save diddly squat for retirement and find that they have no choice but to keep working until they drop dead or else they won't be able to afford buy an iPhone for their grandchildren, who can't find a job because older people are keeping their jobs instead of retiring and making way for the younger generation.
on December 23,2012 | 11:51AM
allie wrote:
giggle..much truth in that
on December 25,2012 | 02:05PM
aomohoa wrote:
Poor planning. People want to live in the moment and forget the future will be here sooner than you think:)
on December 23,2012 | 06:55PM
connie wrote:
Though the article does not mention it. I wonder how much of the workforce is over 70 years of age, drawing Social Security and working. Currently, Social Security and pension income are exempt from Hawaii State tax. I suggest, if a person over 70 years of age, drawing Social Security and/or a pension, still working (be it W-2 or 1099MISC), be subject to and pay Hawaii State tax. Also, take away the extra over age 65 exemption for those who are still working and over age 70. They would be taxed like any other person under age 65 who is working. I recognize many of our Kupuna are working for their grandchildren. And many of the jobs in the service sector are entry level. And many of our Kupuna work hard, are responsible, and are reliable. But I see too many of our young adults hanging out at the mall or the beach without a job. Too many young mothers, working several part time jobs (with no health insurance), struggling to make ends meet.
on December 23,2012 | 05:19AM
allie wrote:
We have lots of of good jobs in North Dakota and we have huge budget surplusses
on December 23,2012 | 07:48AM
connie wrote:
Been to Minot, ND. Spent some time there with the B-52s. If you love the cold, its the place to be. Its 1 degree, yes, degree as in singular, in Minot today. My thermometer reads 79 degrees in Honolulu right now. Can't put a price on warm weather in December.
on December 23,2012 | 09:34AM
cojef wrote:
Audited the customs installations in Pembina and Minot, ND. in the summer so can't speak about the cold there. Wouldn't live in such a desolate place. Hawaii maybe, currently residing in Southern California, now going on 30 years. Love it here, but do miss Hawaii.
on December 23,2012 | 10:16AM
allie wrote:
It was never desolate to me and I lived in the rural poverty of Northeast ND I had a rich interior life.
on December 23,2012 | 11:02AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I think a rich "imaginary life" are the words you were looking for.
on December 23,2012 | 12:16PM
allie wrote:
interior life
on December 25,2012 | 02:06PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
on December 23,2012 | 12:17PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
explains a lot about allie's behavior, does it not?
on December 23,2012 | 07:55PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
Actually this is the one time the dolt is correct. With the oil boom, jobs have become plentiful, however this kind of boom has occurred in Wyoming which lasted a few years then died off. Whether this boom will sustain itself by attracting other industries and the local government can resist chasing those new industries away by bleeding the productive to subsidize the non-productive remains to be seen.
on December 23,2012 | 02:58PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Go to the on line Billings Gazette.com and read of families ending up in homeless shelters after arriving there thinking they can get high paying jobs....sad, sad, sad.
on December 23,2012 | 05:17PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
That, sadly to say is to be expected with booms, people show up expecting something to be handed to them without bothering to check if their skills are in demand or even relevant to the company or companies posting the openings. The high paying jobs are all relating to geology, the oil industry or petrochemical manufacturing, yet you end up with an endless stream of unskilled laborers and college graduates with no qualifications to work in such industries. It's the same with booms in other areas involving other industries.
on December 23,2012 | 06:21PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
The boom is in the Dakotas and it is to be expected that any boom is going draw alot of unskilled labor and college graduates with no marketable skills that have failed to perform any research into the type of job openings that are available. They just show up and expect to be hired on the spot. Just because someone has a college degree or claims to be attending college is no indication that they are indeed intelligent as allie proves time and again.
on December 23,2012 | 06:44PM
aomohoa wrote:
We need more trade schools and technical schools. A 4 year degree get you no where now a days.
on December 23,2012 | 07:06PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
Yeah, more CCs teaching trades and Associate degrees so kids can get into the workplace sooner and when appropriate, finish a 4yr degree for career progression, which some companies will fund for their employees. Nothing wrong with going straight for a 4yr degree as long as it's part of a career plan out of high school. The majority of College Grads that can't get a job are because they pursued a degree that presented no future. Also our schools need to do a much better job in exposing kids to different growth fields and teaching kids to plan their career path.
on December 23,2012 | 07:27PM
aomohoa wrote:
You've got to researcher and plan so that doesn't happen.
on December 23,2012 | 07:04PM
allie wrote:
just like maui
on December 25,2012 | 02:06PM
aomohoa wrote:
Go home allie. You don't belong here and seem to miss ND!
on December 23,2012 | 06:56PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
Doesn't really matter where or what with allie. Sooner or later everyone gets fed up with his attitude and poor character. Understand how much it could hurt a company if an employee presents false or inaccurate information because they are too lazy to put in the work to dig up the honest facts or too dumb to take facts in context. Won't matter what he goes into, he's going to s*ck at it.
on December 23,2012 | 07:33PM
allie wrote:
I do not graduate until next December!
on December 25,2012 | 02:07PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Please do not count your chickens before they hatch. Someone may turn up a signal called 11-12-13 as the end of UH lol.
on December 27,2012 | 06:43AM
Anonymous wrote:
I think a big part of it is the older folks were hard workers. sad to say this younger generation is not.Another thing is working keep them alive. they worked all there lives. sitting home doing nothing is not who they are. some even work in our school being around others keep them young
on December 23,2012 | 02:48PM
HD36 wrote:
Obama is going to recalculate the CPI indext so that the cost of living increase on social secuirty checks will be alot smaller. When the real rate of inflation is calculated, no senior should retire under 72 unless you're a millionaire living in the mainland.
on December 23,2012 | 09:08AM
allie wrote:
on December 25,2012 | 02:07PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Man this is the standard young people reply.
on December 27,2012 | 06:38AM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
anonymous - hit the nail on the nose. Older folks have something called a work ethic which is conspicuously missing from many of the younger generation. Most of the older generation have a roll up the sleeves and get to work attitude while the younger folks display an attitude of entitlement and expect someone else to fix challenges they are faced with. This is a reality that stretches across all boundaries be it city/rural, rich/poor or what have you. I see this on my job everytime we undertake a new project and have to go through hiring, it usually becomes abundantly clear why the person that took 6 years to complete a degree did so. The parents that instill a sound work ethic in their children give them a HUGE edge over the rest of their age group. They will not end up as college educated food servers, doorman, valet parking attendants, convenience store clerks, etc.
on December 23,2012 | 03:18PM
aomohoa wrote:
Well said cunfuzd4.
on December 23,2012 | 07:09PM
allie wrote:
on December 25,2012 | 02:08PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Could it be that the work ethic has not been transferred from the parent to the child ?
on December 27,2012 | 06:54AM
64hoo wrote:
older workers are staying put let them i have been working at my hotel for 24 years i am 58 five more years and i am retireing at 63. give the young people a chance.
on December 23,2012 | 07:22PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
It's up to you but personally, I'd keep working till they make me retire but before that happens take up a hobby, something you really enjoy before you retire. I've seen family and friends retire then after retirement they start going downhill and die not too long after retirement. Got to keep highly active, that's what your body and mind are made for, otherwise you're just waiting to die and that's no good.
on December 23,2012 | 09:02PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
You never know what the economy is going to be like after you retire. If government keeps finding ways to screw you out of your retirement so they can fund people who never did anything, you don't know how your retirement will end up. Honestly for companies I do collaborative work with, they are happier to keep older workers even though they have to pay them more rather than replace them try to find someone younger who will have the same work ethic which these days is very difficult.
on December 23,2012 | 09:18PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Keep the bread on the table, always the driving force behind every move we make in life.
on December 27,2012 | 06:40AM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
Allison....do you get paid by the word?
on December 23,2012 | 10:16PM
allie wrote:
most days yes...:)
on December 25,2012 | 02:08PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
and u get little pay if u do not elucidate lol.
on December 27,2012 | 06:37AM