Hospitality Ulster launches workforce strategy to tackle workforce shortages

The strategy has been developed in partnership with UK Hospitality, the industry trade body representing the hospitality sector in England, Scotland and Wales.

The workforce strategy explores all aspects of the sector’s workforce needs, with a focus on five key areas: recruitment, skills and training, staff welfare, sector image and infrastructure .

Designed to foster cooperation between key stakeholders, Hospitality Ulster hopes the executive will reflect on the course of action in coming up with the much-needed bespoke hospitality strategy aimed at providing the right resources needed to ensure the sector recovers from the pandemic .

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Stephen Mcgorrian, Vice Chairman of Hospitality Ulster, Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UK Hospitality, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA and Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, are pictured at the launch of the workforce strategy Hospitality Ulster work in Parliament.

The strategy was launched today at a Stormont event where hospitality industry leaders joined speakers including UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholl and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA .

This comes as the hospitality sector faces a number of external challenges, including rising raw material costs and rising energy bills, the return of VAT rates to 20%, high business rates, a tightening labor market and a drop in consumer disposable income due to the cost of living crisis.

Speaking at the launch, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “The hospitality sector has always been a mainstay of our economy. It is vital that it continues to thrive.

“I welcome the launch of the Ulster Hospitality Workforce Strategy, which includes many messages that resonate with my department’s own skills strategy, ‘Skills for a 10x Economy’. Both strategies underscore the need for government, business and educational institutions to work together to address skills issues in our labor market.

“Clearly there are many areas where my department can continue to collaborate with the sector and I look forward to continuing to grow this relationship as we implement ‘Skills for a 10x Economy’.”

Speaking at the launch event, Colin Neill, Managing Director of Hospitality Ulster, explained: “The hospitality industry is all about people. It is our people who make our pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafés vibrant and exciting places where consumers choose to spend their social time. The current workforce crisis is a real disaster for businesses, especially in the current climate, and reduces the ability to recover and revitalize after the pandemic.

“The Workforce Strategy provides concrete solutions and actions that can be taken to focus on the sector’s vibrancy as an employer and provides tools that can be used to promote roles in the sector for future generations of the workforce.

“Alongside our sister organisation, UK Hospitality, we take responsibility for both the challenges and the solutions within our power, while seeking to work with government and other key stakeholders in a coalition of the willing.

To address the workforce crisis affecting our industry, we support a culture of training and development that aims to build a career path with quality employment opportunities for all sectors of society. By demonstrating that our sector offers a rewarding career path with many different paths and opportunities, and by working to harness talent, both new and existing, we can ensure that the sector is properly staffed and workers are properly supported and rewarded.

“Across the five key areas targeted – recruitment, skills and training, working life, sector image and infrastructure – we have developed a series of actions that industry and other stakeholders can implement to resolve current challenges. By implementing this action plan, the hospitality industry will be able to provide high-quality, skilled jobs that will boost not only the sector, but the economy at large.

“Some initiatives under the strategy have already begun, such as our Employer Charter with many leading hospitality businesses – large and small – already committed to supporting staff wellbeing, training and development. Further aspects are being developed as we take responsibility for resolving challenges and ensuring that our hospitality industry continues to play a major role in Northern Ireland’s economy and provides career opportunities for the both at the skilled and beginner levels.

Launching the Workforce Strategy, Kate Nicholl, Managing Director of UK Hospitality, added: “Working in partnership with our sister organization Hospitality Ulster, we are proud to have developed this vital strategy, in the hope that it will will serve as a basis for the reconstruction and renewal of the sector.

“Hospitality simply cannot function without people. From bartenders to chefs, marketers to managers, everyone in hospitality provides an essential service requiring skills and knowledge. Across the UK, we are going through a personnel crisis due to a combination of circumstances including a tight global labor market, the impact of Covid and the perceptions some may have of the industry This is a terrible position and it creates wreak havoc on trade and business viability.

“The strategy we have created aims to limit this crisis and provide the structures and tools that will help the industry improve its workforce and develop the skills of our workforce and ensure that we are able to advance our recovery agenda.

“Hospitality is a great career choice, an industry filled with hardworking and exciting people who bring innovative new ideas to boost the industry’s offering. A thriving workforce will only further elevate the hospitality industry across the UK and create not just a better industry, but a better society for all.

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