The Bay of Plenty will need another 12,000 workers by 2020 but Tauranga business leaders say the city is already facing a major skills shortage.
A report from industry training organisation ServiceIQ showed the region would need 39 per cent more workers in tourism, hospitality, aviation and other service sectors.
Figures supplied to the Bay of Plenty Times specific to Tauranga revealed there were 20,748 people employed in these industries in 2016 with 6887 new workers required by 2021.
ServiceIQ chief executive Dean Minchington said although the situation was serious there were opportunities for local people to get local jobs and gain new skills.
"It means that young people will be able to get their first job and get started on a rewarding career."
Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kathrin Low said its draft strategic plan had identified that by 2028 the visitor economy for Western Bay and Whakatane would be worth $1.45 billion and about 4000 people would be required to cope with growth.
"Obviously they will need to be trained in the tourism space and we actively need to act on that. A focus area within the plan is around the skilled workforce."
Hospitality New Zealand regional manager for the Bay of Plenty and Waikato Alan Sciascia said there was certainly a shortage of workers.
"For numerous reasons there has always been difficulty in getting enough skilled people to work in hospitality and stay in hospitality. It does take a particular mindset for a person to really make it a career. It's an industry that does have a number of difficulties . . . some people will take to it like a fish to water and others don't."
Chefs and duty managers were hard to find, he said.
Phill Van Syp of 1st Call Recruitment said virtually all industries were experiencing shortages of skilled workers.
"It's pretty much all over the board, the list is endless. We can't even find a labourer . . . we're constantly looking for baristas."
Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said a survey had found more than half of business leaders faced difficulty when finding skilled staff and it was a barrier to growth.
"The skill shortages are being experienced across the board, but particularly in the areas of IT, engineering, health and construction."
Immigration was a "faster fix" but more training for young people was a longer term solution, she said.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said locals were "less keen to pick up the slack" for unskilled agricultural/horticultural positions and less-skilled hospitality jobs.
Meanwhile practical trades were in short supply and professions including engineering, medical and specialised IT were finding it hard to recruit from the local pool of talent.
"Our members are reporting mixed success in finding and attracting talent in all these areas. Some have recruited from overseas and have had no trouble finding and paying for highly skilled staff. Others are struggling - mainly with the lower paid trades and unskilled areas, where there is an element of not enough locals wanting or prepared to work at the going rates."
Employers may have an opportunity, he said, to offer "more attractive pay and conditions to overcome this, rather than expecting automatic access to cheap labour from overseas".
According to the latest figures from Trade Me, the median salary in the hospitality and tourism sectors was $40,000.
Skilled staff hard to find
Mount Mellick Irish Pub owner Carl Willetts says he advertised for a chef earlier this month and had been inundated with applicants who did not have the right skillset.
''I'll be lucky enough to find a chef.''
Mr Willetts said often Kiwis saw hospitality as an ''in between job'' or a way ''to get through university'', not a career.
Finding bar tenders, servers and kitchen hands was relatively easy compared to duty managers and chefs, he said.
''If you get a good one you really have to hold on to them and look after them.''
He had a staff of about 20 and often relied on overseas travellers to fill positions.
''I'd say 75 per cent of my staff are travellers. I hire them because generally they have a good work ethic and come with a lot of experience and worldly experience.
''I am lucky at the moment I have a good team but if I was to lose one of my managers you have to go through the whole recruitment process again and you invest a hell of a lot of time into training.''