Hoteliers have identified the well documented skills shortage as the greatest challenge facing the sector. As hotel rooms reach record levels, issues around recruitment, skills and staffing have never been more topical. Hospitality is one of many sectors facing a staffing crisis alongside healthcare, manufacturing and construction. There is stiff competition for recruits at this time as unemployment is at a record low with fewer candidates seeking jobs.
The general metric for the sector is that ONE hotel room equals ONE job. However, hotels at four star and above operate with a greater staff density. There is no magic formula or single solution to resolve the issue. The NI Hotels Federation (NIHF) has been working with a number of stakeholders to alleviate the situation in some small way.
Hospitality bosses have said a shortage of chefs is among the biggest challenges to the industry here. The NIHF have been involved in a pilot Bridge to Employment programme to inform and educate potential recruits about the opportunities and career paths within this growing sector. Working in partnership with a consortium comprising of the Belfast Met, sector skills organisation People 1st and a number of Belfast-based hospitality businesses, the Department for the Economy has supported a training programme which provides an introduction to the basic skills required to work as a professional Commis Chef.
Ann Williamson, Head of Employer Skills at the Department for the Economy said:
“With Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector being one of our largest employers, this initiative offers a great opportunity to forge a career in this vibrant industry. Tourism and hospitality here have gone from strength to strength in recent years and if we are to continue this growth then collaborative programmes such as this, providing a structured path of training and development, will be vital to the development of the next generation of culinary talent.”
Twelve trainees started on the four-week programme in May which included basic kitchen training, employment skills and a full week of work placement. They will work in a number of Belfast’s hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions.
Janice Gault, Chief Executive of the NIHF said:
“The hospitality industry has fantastic opportunities for people at all levels. There is a chance to have a rewarding career, develop a range of portable skills and work in a flexible way. As hotel numbers grow, we have roles in all departments and have been focusing on raising the profile of the industry whilst addressing its image issues. The trainees on this programme have been an inspiration, embracing learning with enthusiasm. The course has ignited a passion in them and we hope that they will embrace all this sector has to offer. It has been wonderful to work in partnership with so many organisations on this programme and we would like to thank Department for the Economy, People 1st, Belfast Met and Belfast City Council for their support, not to mention the dedicated employers who have welcomed the programme.”