The Guardian has reported on the talks between ministers and the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the likelihood of hospitality roles being included on the “shortage occupation list”. Being added to this list may make it easier for businesses to recruit personnel from abroad, which ministers hope will help fill some of the vacant roles in the industry. Overseas recruitment has been made far more difficult since Brexit was passed - the current legislation means most hospitality businesses can only recruit staff from overseas via a skilled worker sponsor license, however many businesses will find it difficult to front the costs for these sponsors due to unforeseen closures in the last few years, and the rising cost of living here in the UK. Some businesses have begun offering work perks such as ‘enhanced health insurance’ in an effort to beat out the competition and attract talent - once again this leaves smaller businesses struggling to compete. An easier process for overseas recruitment will therefore be welcomed by businesses across the country. The Guardian reports that a decision will be confirmed within weeks.
Vacancies in the Hospitality Sector
Job vacancies in the UK hospitality sector continue to be a major concern, with the number of vacant roles reaching 146,000 between November and January 2023. (Data collected by the Office for National Statistics - ONS) This data does show one encouraging trend, however - there are 4,000 fewer vacancies now when compared to the previous quarter. This growth is slow, but it is encouraging. Nevertheless, the number of vacancies is still 72% higher than the number recorded pre-pandemic.
Hospitality Roles being added to the shortage occupation list should help fill a large portion of these vacancies, however, there is yet to be a clear decision made by the Migration Advisory Board and prior rulings may suggest that the board will reject the plea. In 2020, the MAC was criticised for publishing a report that recommended chefs be removed from the list. The board only rescinded the report after receiving criticism from operators and trade bodies who said it was "hardly surprising the industry struggled to fill roles with UK candidates when cheffing was branded as low skill". The industry has been campaigning for a hospitality visa scheme for years - one petition last year gained more than 18,000 signatures. Nevertheless, the government has doubled down on their mission for UK businesses to prioritise looking within the UK for workers to build a stronger UK-based labour force across the industry.
One route to building the UK-based workforce is through a revitalised apprenticeship scheme. The UK government showcased “apprenticeship success stories” in the hospitality sector during this year’s National Apprentice Week (6 - 12 February.) The apprenticeships showcased involved the hospitality groups Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Express, and Whitbread, as well as catering training companies HIT training, Umbrella Training, and the Hilton hotel chains. After years of low intake and retainment numbers severely impacting the industry, the campaign hoped to entice more people back into hospitality roles, especially young people who may consider signing on for apprenticeships.
However, new data shows that almost 95% of school leavers plan not to choose a career in the hospitality sector. The number one factor which seems to be putting young people off joining the industry is a lack of potential career opportunities going forward - “over half (55%) of school leavers view hospitality jobs as just a temporary fix and 44% believe that the sector does not offer career progression.”
Industry experts have been vocal in their criticism of the apprenticeship levy. Kate Nichols, head of UKHospitality, emphasised the need for the government to bring in reforms around the apprenticeship program and how businesses can access government grants available to train apprentices. “Hospitality businesses are eager to invest more in developing the skills, training and development of their workforce, particularly when vacancies are so high. Reform of the apprenticeship levy is urgently needed to offer greater flexibility to businesses, particularly in how funding is used.”
Apprenticeships need not only be available and accessible to young people, but they also need to be able to showcase the skills that these young people will learn, and pathways within the industry that they can follow, grow and succeed in. As UKHospitality has suggested, the key to this method may be in giving businesses more control over spending, with more freedom to hone in and offer appealing training sessions that prioritise career pathways.
Finding relief work
When it comes to finding short-term support, businesses can use the Brigad app and be connected with thousands of highly skilled and experienced hospitality professionals based here in the UK. It only takes around 3 minutes to post a mission on our user-friendly app, and 80% of missions are accepted in less than 2 hours.
Reach out and chat to a member of the Brigad team today for more help and information.