Laid off hospitality workers can access job search help via new portal

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune

Chicago hospitality workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic can find job search help via a new portal announced Thursday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.

The city partnered with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership to launch ChiServes.com, which invites area restaurant, hotel and other hospitality workers to enter their information to be connected to resume writing, interview preparation, occupational training, and job placement services.

Those who register will receive a weekly text blast listing job openings and upcoming hiring events. They can also sign up for the texts by texting “ChiServes” (or “ChiSirve” for Spanish speakers) to 474747.

The leisure and hospitality industry, which before the pandemic employed more than 600,000 people in Illinois, has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and government-mandated restrictions. In September the sector was still down 130,000 jobs in the state compared with a year before, according to payroll data compiled by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

More than 41,400 food service and prep workers in Cook County were receiving unemployment benefits in September, according to the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, which runs the city and county’s public workforce system.

The new initiative is the agency’s first that targets a specific population and uses a text blast to help them access the agency’s services, said CEO Karin Norington-Reaves. It will also hold virtual and in-person rapid-response workshops that cater to hospitality workers facing mass layoffs and direct them to housing, food and other resources.

Layoffs of hospitality workers are expected to continue as restaurants struggle to survive in the face of indoor dining restrictions and a winter without the extra seating afforded by patio dining.

“Hospitality and food service is going to be the last (industry) to rebound,” Norington-Reaves said.

But there are other jobs available in other industries.

More than 900 employers are currently hiring for more than 1,700 job titles in the area, said Norington-Reaves. The agency’s job search page lists openings at Amazon warehouses, grocery stores, pharmacies and packaging suppliers.

Jobs are rebounding in manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics and information technology, she said.

“People would do well to retool and consider IT,” Norington-Reaves said.

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