UKHospitality: Power from the people

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, tells us about the new nationwide hospitality workforce strategy...

There’s no way we could sit idly by while our sector experiences chronic and crippling staff shortages – running at around 170,000 – so UKHospitality has launched a nationwide hospitality workforce strategy. Its ambitious but achievable aim is to encourage and facilitate cooperation between industry stakeholders and boost recruitment and training for a new generation of skilled hospitality workers.

Fixing the Crisis: a Framework for Collaborative Action Across the Sector examines all aspects of our labour needs. This includes recruitment, skills and training, people’s working lives, hospitality’s image as a sector in which to work, and the infrastructure required to support our employees.

This move comes as our post-pandemic recovery contends with increased raw goods costs; huge energy bill rises; lower city centre footfall, as people continue to work from home; VAT back at 20%; unfair business rates; and fragile consumer confidence amid the cost-of-living crisis. All of this is exacerbated by a crisis in employment across the economy, particularly in hospitality, with ONS data showing that vacancies are exceeding unemployment for the first time.

Our strategy sets out a vision to ensure the sector is fully resourced, with people with the right skills, a clear talent pipeline with established routes of progression and high levels of employee wellbeing. It’s based on a partnership approach with industry bodies and governments, and at its core is an ambition to upskill our workforce and create high-quality, high-skilled roles, promoting social mobility. Levelling up the hospitality workforce will help level up the nation.

Designed to work alongside and support the Hospitality and Tourism Skills Board where appropriate, the strategy focuses on five key areas the sector must address:

  • Recruitment – hospitality must be able to access a wide range of people to fill its vacancies
  • Skills and training – hospitality is a professional sector that must enshrine high standards and facilitate social mobility
  • Working lives – hospitality must make people’s working lives enjoyable and fulfilling
  • Image of the sector – to reset perceptions of the hospitality sector as a great place to work and develop your career
  • Infrastructure – to ensure that there are no structural barriers to working in the sector – such as poor transport and a lack of housing.

Within these areas, the strategy examines critical issues such as professional standards, pay, the working environment, equality and diversity, future demand and digital connectivity.

It’s no exaggeration to say that people make hospitality. Along with the setting, they provide the unique experiences that people crave, and without the great people who create these environments there wouldn’t be a hospitality sector.

This means it’s critical that sector businesses are able to cultivate a skilled and dynamic workforce. Hospitality already offers a wide range of roles with different skill sets; provides entry-level to managerial to corporate jobs; and is a sector in which people can find great training opportunities and meritocratic career progression.

By working with government, the hospitality sector – already best placed to lead the UK’s post-Covid recovery – will deliver on levelling up every town, regenerating high streets, and reigniting local economies, with a highly skilled workforce able to unlock the industry’s huge potential. 

Immediate next steps include delivering on the objectives of the strategy; engaging with industry and local partners; developing action plans for each measure; and launching a big, bold recruitment campaign. We’ll also be producing an annual report on the state of the hospitality workforce.

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