UW Spearheads Study on Workforce Development in State’s Thriving Travel Industry

A comprehensive new report released by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH) Initiative -- in collaboration with several community colleges across the state -- reveals critical insights into the workforce development needs within Wyoming’s robust travel industry. The Gap Analysis Report underscores the urgent need for enhancing educational programs and training opportunities to sustain and expand this crucial economic sector in the Cowboy State.

In 2023, Wyoming’s travel industry -- the state's second-largest industry -- supported more than 33,000 jobs, and travelers spent $4.5 billion, making a significant impact on the state’s economy. Despite these impressive figures, the report identifies a gap in the skilled workforce necessary to support the industry’s continued growth and development.

The report, supported by Gov. Mark Gordon’s Wyoming Innovation Partnership, found a decline in enrollment and graduation in tourism and hospitality-related programs post-COVID-19, with recovery lagging behind the demand for skilled workers. Programs related to outdoor recreation and leadership have seen increasing popularity, indicating a shift in demand.

Key findings from the report include:

-- A 24 percent projected increase in employment within the travel industry by 2030, significantly outpacing the overall state employment growth.

-- A shortfall in the number of skilled workers emerging from educational programs relative to the needs of the industry.

WORTH researchers recommended focusing on boosting enrollment and program visibility, enhancing partnerships between educational institutions and industry stakeholders, and expanding training programs to address specific industry skills gaps.

Dan McCoy, WORTH interim director, emphasizes the importance of the findings.

“Our report highlights the need for strategic investments in education and workforce development to keep pace with the industry’s demands,” McCoy says. “By strengthening the ties between educational institutions and the travel industry, we can ensure a more robust and skilled workforce to support Wyoming’s economic future.”

The full report is available at https://doi.org/10.15786/wyoscholar/9852.

For more information, email McCoy at dan.mccoy@uwyo.edu or visit the WORTH website at www.uwyo.edu/worth.

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