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Viewpoint: We must reach out to schools to solve the staffing crisis

19 August 2015
Viewpoint: We must reach out to schools to solve the staffing crisis

As teenagers receiving their exam results ask what lies ahead, John Hyde, executive chairman at HIT Training, argues for better engagement

As I talk to the chief executives and owners of hotels, pubs and restaurants around the country, their combined concern is the shortage of skilled staff,especially chefs and supervisory managers.

The hospitality and catering industry had a proud reputation of providing school leavers with career opportunities where they could learn their craft and progress rapidly, but in recent years, with the steady supply of skilled foreign labour, the employment of school and college leavers has declined.

The staffing crisis means the industry needs to re-assess this policy. Increased restrictions on obtaining work permits for non-EU staff and the political white noise around immigrants are closing one source of recruitment, while the improving economies in EU countries make working in Britain a less attractive proposition.

Now is the time to revisit the employment of the school leavers in your area, especially as last week thousands of young people received their GCSE and A level results. What better time to take a long, hard look at ourselves and, like them, start planning for a better future?

Have you or your general manager made contact with local schools? Not just by attending careers exhibitions, but by forming meaningful partnerships.

Teachers get very few perks, so an invitation to your local school's teaching staff for a dinner and tour of your premises should be well-received and will open their eyesto all the skilled jobs and promotion opportunities available. And don't forget the primary schools. Could you run MasterChef-type competitions on your premises for local schoolchildren or link up with FutureChef? Perhaps you could provide work experience for school pupils or actively engage with their home economics classes? A little investment in time and money now could reduce your recruitment fees and agency staff in the future.

This week, as thousands of young people leave school, we have to ask ourselves why the hospitality industry is failing to attract sufficient numbers of new recruits. At 16, many young people may not know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but the soft skills they learn in the hospitality industry - including customer service, professionalism and teamwork - plus the qualifications they can gain through a wealth of apprenticeship opportunities, will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

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