THE ISSUE of skills in the UK Foodservice sector appears to be reaching critical mass; open any trade magazine and the headlines jump out. The topic is the subject of conversation amongst the great and good of the industry, but perhaps that is the problem? Talking is all well and good, but isn’t it action we need to solve the problem?
It’s been a growing problem for many years but nothing has really moved forward from those original fears, aside from the skills gap – between what we have and what we need – getting bigger.
Across the entire sector, employers are facing a lack of both core and niche skills at junior and senior level especially as cuts in funding has meant there is less money to support staff as they move up the ladder. So now we are facing the problem of both youth recruiting and, further up the chain, necessary management skills. This is partly down to retention - the Industry loses some of its best because skills development is often not part of the wider package on offer – which is a real shame, as the onward career prospects within the catering sector can be exceptionally rewarding.
Research by People 1st certainly supports this as a recent survey found 20% of organisations across the industry suggested they were unable to recruit staff with the skills they needed. Instead, they are plugging the gaps with less qualified candidates.
That’s not to say some won’t thrive in a challenging senior role and, if a macro view of the industry was taken, it would look like this is happening up and down the country. The outlook for the catering sector is strong and the innovation that Britain has become renowned for continues to shine through. The great reputation entirely hinges on the exceptional staff that work within the industry and the skill and talent they display every day, as well as their passion and dedication, more than justifies the praise and accolades that the sector receives. The bar has been set high, but without skilled young people or trained managers to carry on this work the legacy will be lost – it is truly a people-driven industry.
So how can the Industry start to plug the skills gap? By taking action and setting up new initiatives that encourage and support talented people, young and old, to take up careers in the hospitality sector. It’s all well and good assessing the issues and discussing the solutions, but if we are to protect ourselves against future recruitment and retention problems then we need to start providing the necessary training for the people of tomorrow, today.