The only way to attract and retain staff is to change the perception of our industry. We must collectively offer an alternative view, says Wendy Bartlett.
As I begin to write this column, I'm reluctant to once again discuss the issue of Covid and its impact on our industry. You wonder when it will all be too much – but yet again, with the serious skills issues we see before us, we have new challenges to address and barriers to scramble over.
Some consumers may wonder whether the skills shortage is all hype to fill empty news pages, whether it is reality, or whether it is just a blip in the post-Covid world.
There have always been recruitment challenges in catering. It may not be the most glamorous at some levels, with pay not being the best in the country, but it is a great industry to be part of for many reasons.
Catering helps build people and careers. At entry level, there is so much youngsters can learn: people management, working as a team, the humility of service to others and general people skills that will stand them in good stead for life's challenges.
When it comes to people and recruitment, what the sector hasn't been good at is a joined-up approach about what the industry has to offer and the opportunities it can provide, or showcasing amazing rags-to-riches case studies (monetary or otherwise).
My sector (contract catering) is incredibly attractive to some as it offers stable hours – Monday to Friday mainly – and excellent career progression. I don't know many sectors where you can move so quickly up the ranks, purely based on the merit of your work.
The Food Service Circle was developed to help the people our sector has had to let go – to find new roles, be inspired and give them the tools to find work in any part of our industry. As the focus changes from people not being able to find jobs to persuading them to return or to take a chance on our sector, we are asking how we can act as a joined-up voice.
Catering can play a significant role in the recovery of the economy and the future of certain communities, so we need to find better ways of working together to showcase the benefits of our industry and present it as a career of choice.
We need to find better ways of working together to showcase the benefits of our industry and present it as a career of choice
We need to look closely at apprenticeship schemes and careers advisers to see if they are fit for purpose. If they need changing, then, as a sector, we need to stand up and tell the government what we think will work.
The only way we can do this is by collectively offering evidence, strategies and suggestions on what the future can look like.
The role of a hospitality minister is vital and that's an issue behind which we have to stay united. We have UKHospitality as a great representation vehicle with government, so let's make sure we continue to support it actively in each sector.
When you hear someone complaining about staffing or representation, ask them what are they doing to be part of the bigger picture and to effect change.
Let's get as much information as possible out there and keep pushing the agenda that hospitality is an answer to the economic problems the country faces – not just for our businesses to survive, but also to support every single person working within it.
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