The hospitality industry has a labour shortage, not a skills shortage, Kate Nichols, chief executive of UKHospitality, told a gathering of HR hospitality professionals.
Nichols was speaking at the HR in Hospitality annual conference, held yesterday at the Kimpton Fitzroy London hotel, where she urged delegates to reach out as ambassadors for the industry to schools and college as the uncertainity of Brexit continues to rumble on.
She explained that a skills shortage implied that the industry doesn't invest in its people, when it does. "When talking to government I say that it is a labour shortage that we are dealing with. We are forecast to have 200,000 fewer 18 to 24 year-olds that are UK-born by 2020 and we don't come out of that until 2030.
"The strongest message I've got when I tell government ministers that we need a migration policy that works, is that there aren't masses of bodies out there who are not able to get a job. When you've got unemployment rates down below 4% and short-term unemployment in London down to 2%, you have got to face the fact that we are at full employment.
Nichols told the conference that UKHospitality would provide ambassadors from the industry with all the "information and details" to go into schools and sell hospitality as a sector that can offer a career path.
"It is not about young people with no skills, who don't know what to do and with no qualifications, it is about capturing the aspirational 16, 17 and 18 year olds who want to have a fantastic career and want to look at something like marketing, law, finance.
"We want to show you can have much more fun in hospitality being an accountant than you could do being an accountant in a widget factory. We should be celebrating that.
Nichols also highlighted the benefits of building links with higher education colleges and sixth form colleges. "As the new T-levels are rolled out, there will be automatic requirements for three month industrial placements. Students don't need to be studying hospitality to do a placement in your business.
"We should not just be targeting those children who have decided they want to work in hospitality, but going out more generally to explain that we could provide good quality industrial placements in order to build potential recruits for tomorrow."Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).