Hospitality Ulster launches Workforce Strategy to combat labour shortages

Hospitality Ulster has launched its Workforce Strategy aimed at upskilling the hospitality sector workforce and tackling the ongoing workforce crisis within the industry.

The Strategy has been developed in partnership with UK Hospitality, the industry trade body which represents the hospitality sector across England, Scotland and Wales.

The workforce strategy explores all aspects of the sector’s labour needs, with a focus on five key areas: Recruitment, Skills and Training, Staff wellbeing, Image of the Sector and Infrastructure.

Designed to nurture cooperation between key stakeholders, Hospitality Ulster hopes that the Executive will reflect on the action plan by bringing forward the much needed bespoke hospitality strategy aimed at providing the right resources required to ensure the sector recovers post-pandemic.

Pictured at the launch of the Hospitality Ulster Workforce Strategy at Parliament Buildings are Stephen Mcgorrian, vice-chair Hospitality Ulster, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA and Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster

The Strategy was launched at a Stormont event today where leaders of the hospitality sector joined with speakers including Chief Executive of UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholl and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA.

It comes as the hospitality sector contends with a number of exterior challenges including the increased raw material costs and surging energy bills, VAT rates returning to 20%, high business rates, a tightening labour market and a dip in disposable income for consumers due to the cost of living crisis.

Speaking at the launch Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, said: “The hospitality sector has always been a mainstay of our economy. It is vital it continues to flourish.

“I welcome the launch of the Hospitality Ulster Workforce Strategy which includes many messages that resonate with my Department’s own Skills Strategy, ‘Skills for a 10x Economy’. Both strategies highlight the need to work collaboratively across government, business and education institutions to resolve skills-based issues in our labour market.

“It is clear that there are many areas where my Department can continue to collaborate with the sector and I look forward to continuing to develop this relationship as we implement ‘Skills for a 10x Economy’.”

Speaking at the launch event, Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, explained: “The hospitality sector is people centric. It is our staff who make our pubs, restaurants, hotels and coffee shops the lively, exciting locations that consumers choose to spend their social time in. The ongoing workforce crisis is a real catastrophe for business especially in the current climate and is curtailing the sector’s ability to recover and revitalise post-pandemic.

“The workforce strategy provides tangible solutions and actions that can be brought forward to focus in on the sector’s vibrancy as an employer and provides tools that can be used to promote roles in the sector for the next generations of workforce.

“Alongside our sister organisation, UK Hospitality, we are taking responsibility for both the challenges and the solutions within our power, whilst seeking to work with government and other key stakeholders in a coalition of the willing.

To tackle the staffing crisis affecting our industry, we are supporting a culture of training and development which aims to build a career path with quality job opportunities for all sectors of society. By demonstrating that our sector offers a rewarding career pathway with many different routes and opportunities, and working to harness the talent, both new and already there, we ca ensure that the sector is properly staffed and workers are properly supported and rewarded.”

“Through the five focused key areas – recruitment, skills and training, working lives, the image of the sector and infrastructure - we have developed a range of actions that industry and other stakeholders can implement to resolve the ongoing challenges. By delivering on this action plan hospitality will be able to deliver high-quality, skilled jobs that will boost not just the sector, but the wider economy.”

“Some initiatives within the strategy have already begun, such as our Employers Charter with many leading hospitality businesses - big and small - already committed to supporting the welfare, training and development of staff. Other aspects are under development as we take responsibility to solve the challenges and ensure our hospitality industry continues to play a major role in the Northern Ireland economy and provides career opportunities both at skilled and entry levels.”

At the launch of the Workforce Strategy, Kate Nicholl, chief executive of UK Hospitality, added: “Working in partnership with our sister organisation Hospitality Ulster we are proud to have developed this vital strategy, with our hope being that it will provide the basis for the rebuild and renewal of the sector.

“Hospitality simply cannot run without people. From bartenders to chefs, and marketers to managers, each and every person in hospitality provides an essential service requiring skill and knowledge. Across the UK we are in a staffing crisis due to a combination of circumstances including a tightening global labour market, the impact of Covid and perceptions some may have of the industry. This is a terrible position to be in and it is creating havoc for trade and business viability.

“The strategy we have created aims to cap this crisis and provide the structures and tools that will support the industry improve their staffing levels and develop the skills of our workforce and ensure that we are able to push forward with our recovery agenda.

“Hospitality is a great career choice, an industry filled with hard-working, exciting people bringing new, innovative ideas to boost the industry’s offer. A thriving workforce will only further elevate the hospitality industry across the UK and create not just a better sector, but a better society for all.”