Want a Job at Disney World? You’re Competing With Brazilians!

Okay, the comment seems over the top. But it’s true. And you’re competing against those from the Philippines, China, and New Zealand.

Yesterday, I noted that President Obama gave a 13 minute talk about making it easier for tourists coming to America to get a Visa. Great stuff. We all want to see the dollars that come from tourists. Still, I noted that there was something much more afoot by that administration when it came to the entire international visa. This is part two of that discussion.

To understand what’s going on, you have to roll back the clock a little. Prior to this recession Disney was building and hiring. There was a need for a lot of Cast Members. And they were looking everywhere they could to find them. The Casting Center was going at it nearly seven days a week. They were hosting all sorts of job fairs to attract potential hires. They were providing financial incentives to current Cast Members to recommend their friends to work here. They even created “Project Future”, which was a small school between Epcot Cast Services building and the outer Test Track where students struggling academically were placed in a work school program. Half the day they were in school in a trailer. The other half of the day they were selling ice cream or working Spaceship Earth.

Disney even used bumper stickers to get local Floridians to apply for a job.

Yes, Disney was doing everything they could to staff the parks in an economic environment where there was virtually no unemployment. And in all that brainstorming came the idea of adding more college interns and more international recruits. While it took a lot of overhead to recruit and to house those individuals, it was ultimately a great deal. Pay was low. Long term benefits weren’t necessary. Promotions didn’t occur because they were soon gone after so many months. Moreover, “casting” a larger net for Cast Members meant a higher quality intern. They came bright and bushy tailed, and eager to work at Disney. They came with higher educations. They spoke more than one language, and in some cases, several languages–ideal for an international tourist base. And all that was a big contrast from locals, some of whom thought working at Disney was above them, or who carried a passive aggressive entitlement attitude.

But then the recession came into play. More locals are out of work. They go to Disney looking for the job, but are told that “Disney isn’t hiring”. But that wasn’t true. They were hiring all right. They just weren’t hiring locals. And they continue to do so. So you get an idea of what that looks like, consider the comments of a colleague:

“When I was training @ DU [Disney University] in the fall [2011] the room was 93% exchange students from Mainland China and 3 students from the States, 3 trainers (one of which is from Spain), and then there’s me. The only person in the room without a degree. The jobs we’re training for are Food and Beverage. I waited 8 months to get the job and 6 weeks later, I didn’t quite make the cut.”

In short, Walt Disney World, which is the largest single site employer in the country, is also the country’s largest single site employer of green card employees. But what does it mean for you? After all, you’re not looking for a job at Disney. You’re just looking to have a good time on vacation. The answer to that question will come in my next post.

J. Jeff Kober