Liverpool City Region’s hospitality sector is facing a chronic skills and staffing shortage but the free-to-access Skills Brokerage can help local employers plug the gaps. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Region’s hospitality sector is now fully open again after the final COVID restrictions were lifted in July – but the sector is now facing a chronic skills shortage.
Analysis by industry association UKHospitality has revealed the extent of the staffing crisis facing a sector that is already in a hugely fragile state following more than a year of closures and severely restricted trading.
Its survey shows the shortage of front-of-house staff and chefs is particularly acute, with 80% of those surveyed reporting vacancies for front-of-house roles, such as waiting and bar staff, and 85% are in need of chefs.
Some 47% have housekeeping vacancies and 43% are looking for assistant or general managers. The survey suggests a current vacancy rate across the sector of 9% – which implies a shortage of 188,000 workers.
During the pandemic many people who had been working in hospitality left for jobs in other sectors. An exodus of EU workers following Brexit has also exacerbated the crisis. It is estimated up to 1.3m EU migrants have left the UK workforce, many of whom worked in hospitality.
The challenge for restaurants, hotels, bars and other businesses across the city region is both the recruitment of staff and the upskilling of existing teams. They now have an urgent need to sell hospitality as not just a transient job, but a real opportunity for a rewarding career.
And right here in the city region, help is at hand via the valuable resource of the Liverpool City Region Skills Brokerage Service – part of Growth Platform. It comprises an expert team of Skills Brokers who provide impartial advice to businesses of all sizes.
They help employers access funding and support them to find the right provider to help recruit and train new staff, or to upskill existing workforces, saving them valuable time and money.
Working with colleagues in the Growth Platform there is also an opportunity for hospitality employers to actively engage with potential new recruits through schemes such as Sector Based Work Academy programmes (SWAPs) where essential training is provided to those looking to enter the hospitality sector, making them ‘job ready.’
In a recent interview, Lyndsay Stanistreet-Tyer, general manager of Suites Hotel in Knowsley, outlined the problem. She said: “One of our biggest issues now, and an issue for the entire hospitality sector, has been finding skilled and experienced staff. The best people are going to the highest bidder. So many people left hospitality in 2020 and didn’t come back.”
Pre-pandemic, Liverpool City Region’s visitor economy was worth around £5bn a year. As lockdown has eased there are early signs of a strong bounce back with Liverpool city centre in particular seeing a surge in footfall. Work has also started on Everton FC’s new £500m stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. This is set to provide a further boost for the city’s visitor economy creating even more growth opportunities for the hospitality sector.
But to take full advantage, hospitality entrepreneurs need to future proof their businesses by investing in recruitment and training and the city region Skills Brokerage can provide all the advice and support they need to achieve that.
One of the best ways of introducing new skills into your business is via Apprenticeships. Any employer who hires a new apprentice between April 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021, will receive £3,000 per new hire. This is in addition to the £1,000 payment already provided for new apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those under 25 with an education, health and care plan. Some employers could therefore receive up to £4,000.
There are also local grants available in a number of local authority areas across the city region. Growth Platform’s Skills Brokers can support employers to access incentive payments and local grants.
The Be More Apprenticeship Portal also offers Liverpool City Region-based employers the opportunity to advertise their apprenticeship vacancies.
Joe Keegan from Growth Platform’s Skills Brokerage Service, said: “In the 10 years or so before the pandemicthe growth of Liverpool’s visitor economy, and the knock-on effect for the hospitality sector, was nothing short of phenomenal. Liverpool city centre is now full of great hotels and restaurants.
“COVID-19 has been a massive shock but the sector has proved to be resilient and customers are returning once more now restrictions have been lifted. But a big check on growth, both for an individual business and across a whole sector, can be a shortage of skilled people.
“If businesses want to be able to capitalise on the recovery they need to invest in their teams by training new staff and upskilling their current teams. Our Skills Brokers have the knowledge and expertise to help them do just that.”
The Skills Brokerage Service is a one-stop-shop where businesses can find a wealth of support on all funding available for skills across the Liverpool City Region and can even provide up to 70% of training costs for training required by employers which is not funded through any other publicly funded route.
If you are an employer in the City Region looking for skills or apprenticeship advice and/or funding then you can get in touch with Growth Platform’s Skills Brokers here. This service is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).