Leading figures in the hospitality industry have emphasised the importance of the sector engaging young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).
The Office for National Statistics released figures yesterday that showed the number of 16 to 24-year-olds not in work or studying fell to 800,000 in the first three months of the year, down 68,000 on the same period last year. However, the number who were NEET for a year or more rose to around 811,000 last year, up 13.6%.
Ben Bengougam, senior vice president of HR, EMEA, at Hilton, said the figures show a "very worrying trend" for young people in the UK, and that large employers have "a key role" to play in tackling the problem.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), said: "Our sector is entering a period of transition; as the flow of labour from Europe begins to decline and the prospect of a curb on future immigration draws ever closer, reaching groups such as NEETs is at the heart of our 10 year strategy to train up a domestic workforce. We plan to build on the success of campaigns we lead together with the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), Job Centre Plus, Springboard and Premier League football clubs.
Ibrahim highlighted that the BHA's Big Hospitality Conversation (BHC) had facilitated 67,000 new hospitality career starts for NEETs in the past three years, through 3,500 businesses, but that more needs to be done.
"Hospitality and tourism is forecast to create over half a million jobs in the next five years, and is one of the few sectors that has the low barriers to entry and the geographic reach to bring NEETs into work with meaningful career opportunities," she continued. "It is time that the Department for Education and other government departments prioritise the hospitality industry and the careers we offer. The BHA will be taking this matter up with the Secretary of State for Education; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS); and DWP."
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), added: "The overall reduction in the number of young people not in education, employment or training underlines how important it is for the government to secure a deal for non-UK EU workers. If we do not have the bodies to fill the predicted vacancies, then eating and drinking out businesses will struggle to grow.
"We should be really proud of the work we do: providing exciting, flexible and challenging work and we should be emphasising this point at every opportunity to identify and celebrate great jobs and attract more young workers to our sector."
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