Document Type

Capstone Project

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Publication Title

Brookings Public Policy Minor Culminating Project

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Workforce development has been a keystone in the discussion of economic diversification of Las Vegas for decades. The leisure and hospitality industry is the lifeline for the Southern Nevada economy due to the reliance on tourism as the city’s main economic driver. The leisure and hospitality industry requires physical labor and more face-to-face customer interaction than other employment sectors. Thus, these jobs often do not require high educational attainment, but rather sharp soft skills like effective listening, nonverbal communication, and negotiation strategies. While these are valuable traits, the lack of educational attainment within the leisure and hospitality workforce suppresses employees’ wages when compared to their higher educated counterparts in Las Vegas.

This report analyzes five leisure and hospitality occupational clusters: food service & preparation, entertainment & recreation, gaming, lodging, and sales. Within these five clusters, entry-level wage, mid-level wage, and upper-level wage occupations are identified to show the change in compensation and employment as a worker moves through the ranks. Next, this report utilizes the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance’s 2022 Workforce Blueprint to identify the top 15 in-demand occupations for Southern Nevada. These four occupational clusters include computer analysts & developers, engineering, business & management, and other. All these occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree and earn significantly more than the leisure and hospitality clusters. Finally, three policy recommendations that address the wage disparities within the Southern Nevada workforce are discussed. A case study example of the MGM College Opportunity Program (COP) is presented to demonstrate an existing workforce training program that promotes upward mobility of leisure and hospitality employees in the community. Policy recommendations include creating more private-public partnerships like the MGM COP, expanding outreach from workforce development agencies, and increasing funding for higher education. These recommendations require collaboration between key contributors to the Las Vegas economy in order to strengthen the regional workforce pipeline.


Economic Development; Workforce Development; Economic Diversification; Higher Education; Las Vegas; Southern Nevada; Economics; Economic Policy; Public Policy; Labor Force


Adult and Continuing Education | Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Curriculum and Instruction | Economic Policy | Economics | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Education Economics | Growth and Development | Higher Education | Hospitality Administration and Management | Income Distribution | Industrial Organization | Labor Economics | Other Economics | Public Affairs | Public Economics | Public Policy | Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration | Regional Economics | Social Policy | Social Welfare | Technology and Innovation | Tourism and Travel | Urban Studies | Vocational Education