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AUGUST 24TH 2017
I know what you’re thinking.
It’s not what I voted for.
It’s already having a negative impact on my business.
Well, you're most likely right. The decision for Britain to leave the EU was made over a year ago, by 51.9% of the British Public and the aftermath split the country in two. Whether you were in or out, everyone had an opinion. The negative implications of Brexit are undeniable (particularly the fall of the pound which was faster and steeper than The Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park.) Unfortunately, the decision is made and those of us who don't like it are learning to lump it.
I work in the Hospitality and Events industry, which is heavily dependent on migrant workers. In fact, a massive 24% of our employees are non-UK nationals and 48% of these are from the EU. New uncertainty about visas and sponsorship requirements of EU nationals following Brexit has left a sour taste and the future of our dazzling industry has become problematic and uncertain.
We gathered together a group of top hospitality professionals to discuss the changes we all need to make to survive Brexit. One key argument of the 'leave' campaign was to see more jobs becoming available for British nationals, but this isn’t necessarily going to happen. What we will find though, is companies working harder to educate kids before they reach school leaver age. If we stand any chance of filling the potential gap left by migrant workers, it is crucial that we make hospitality an attractive option.
As an industry,we need to be focusing on helping young people to understand and value the culture of hospitality. Presentations are made in schools by doctors and lawyers, but not by the Catering Manager at the Brits who could paint a vibrant picture of his career. People see hospitality as working in the local pub for a low wage and that is where the excitement stops. For hospitality jobs to be considered further, we need to cement the validity of the industry.
We are already beginning to see these initiatives emerge with celebrity professionals leading the way, like Jamie Oliver creating his “Fifteen” foundation to bring unemployed apprentices into the industry. We also need to get back in touch with proper skills training. Apprenticeships can be problematic as we see Chef de Parties emerging with Commis level skills and we’re left working with under-skilled groups. Hiring people at top level becomes increasingly difficult as mid-level salaries are not aligned with the skills required, which sees a lot of employees leaving the industry to pursue roles with better pay. If we want to keep people interested, we need to offer salaries that can compete with other industries.
Well, we all do. Anyone involved in the industry who can sing about how much they love their work should be doing so. The opportunities our industry offers are SO diverse, there is something for everyone. Hate the thought of sitting at a desk all day and getting up at the crack of dawn? A restaurant General Manager role would have a schedule that fits you like a glove. Craving the 9-5? We can accommodate this too, in an education sector contract catering position. Bitten early by the wanderlust bug? If you get involved with a big brand like Marriot Hotels, you can work internationally.
Leading organisations also need to back the cause. Nick Levens from event caterer Life’s Kitchen visits various schools and uses interactive videos at work to get kids interested and involved. He says "It’s great to meet them at year seven and eight stage when they are still undecided about their career choices, but we need to get much better at actively getting into schools.”
How heavily Brexit will impact our EU national workers remains to be seen and we can't really offer any clear advice when we don't yet know what the outcome will be. One thing is abundantly clear though, that marketing the benefits of our industry needs to start now and we need to be making changes immediately.
This roundtable discussion was held by Off to Work in collaboration with ACE