RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – More than $250,000 in grant funding will create a new workforce project through the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA) to help train workers across the commonwealth.

VRLTA announced plans Tuesday, April 13, for the $255,500 project to assist restaurant and hotel employees.

“The project has two parts: an upskilling and training program for unemployed and underemployed restaurant and hotel employees, and the enhancement of VRLTA’s industry-specific job board, which connects hospitality employers with job seekers,” a news release said.

The localities to benefit from this project include Charles City County, Chesterfield County, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie County, Emporia, Goochland County, Greensville County, Hanover County, Henrico County, Hopewell, New Kent County, Petersburg, Powhatan County, Prince George County, Richmond (city), Surry County, and Sussex County.

“We are grateful for the support of GO Virginia, the regional funding partners, hospitality businesses, and other localities for the project,” VRLTA President Eric Terry said. “From the first discussion, it was clear that there was not only a need, but significant support for, the project. Area businesses will benefit greatly from a better trained workforce and these efforts will help the area’s hospitality industry recover more quickly.”

In terms of the upskill training program, free training courses will be offered to currently employed and out of work restaurant and hotel employees. All trainees will be required to take coronavirus-related training and can choose from a number of online classes designed to help them in their current job or future one.

“The courses offer restaurant and hotel workers an opportunity to enhance their skills to become more valuable to their current employer and more marketable to future employers,” VRLTA Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Jim Wilson said. “The training offers basics on COVID, food handling, and guest services, plus additional options such as the Certified Restaurant Professional and other designations, courses in preventing sexual harassment and understanding unconscious bias, and training related to allergens and serving alcohol.”

Meanwhile, the project will also continue to build the VRLTA’s industry-specific job board.

According to association leaders, before this board was initially created in October 2020, a single place for hospitality and tourism jobs did not exist.

“Grant funds will be used to generate awareness of the resource among job seekers and employers,” a news release said. “Work is currently being done to prepare for the launch of the program.”

This project comes as the VRLTA has request hospitality and tourism relief from the Virginia General Assembly through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed March 11, 2021 by President Joe Biden.

According to Terry, the relief package will send $350 billion to states, local and tribal governments.

VRLTA says the ARP stipulates that 25% of those funds be devoted to hospitality industry relief efforts, but the legislative text is not specific in how states and local governments should meet that goal.

The association created its own proposal for how the money should be dispersed through grants across different parts of the industry:

  • Hotels and other lodging establishments: $184.7 million
  • Restaurants: $36.7 million
  • Attractions: $10 million
  • Tourism entities:
    • Destination Marketing Organizations/CVBs: $12.25 million
    • Virginia Tourism Corporation: $20 million in additional funding over two years
    • Convention Centers: $1.5 million
  • Campgrounds: $2 million
  • Wedding Venues: $4.7 million

VRLTA also requested $1.5 million in funds to expand the upskilling and job training program along with the job board.

An estimated $10 billion in tourism was lost in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with another possible $3.8 billion to $7.8 billion to be lost in 2021, according to the VRLTA.

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