Skills shortage in the UK food and drink sector? Part 2 – solutions.

skills shortage, kitchen, chefs

In our last blog, we explored the contributing factors that are causing the skills shortage across the UK’s food and drink sector. You can refer back to the blog here. If you haven’t read it yet, it will give you some insight on some of the potential reasons.

To briefly recap, the food and drink industry is worth 28.2 billion per year to the U.K economy. Historically, the sector has faced difficulties in both attracting and retaining talent. Brexit appears to have amplified the situation, making it a greater challenge.

To give you some background, here’s a quick overview: 

What is causing the skills shortage in the U.K’s food and drink sector?

Brexit – A contributing factor. However, the issue existed pre-Brexit.

An ageing workforce – *A third of sector employees will reach retirement age by 2024.

Lack of promotion of the broad variety of the opportunities – *32.5% of jobs in the sector is classified as “highly skilled”. Are young people aware of this?

Poor industry perception from potential employees – Long hours, stressful environments and poor pay may have damaged the reputation of the food and drink sector as a career choice.

Last time we identified the potential causes but what are the possible solutions?

Better promotion as a career choice.

Many young people simply aren’t actually aware of the career opportunities in the food and drink sector. One research study found that 71% of a sample size of 700 young people didn’t have any knowledge of the variety of opportunities the sector offers. A number of initiatives have been launched to address the lack of promotion.

Recently, the organisation responsible for promoting Scottish food and drink – Food Scotland launched a high profile campaign to showcase some of the inspiring young people already working in the sector. It’s clear that more work like this is needed to raise profile and awareness. Promotional campaigns than really focus in on the industry go beyond simply the broad messaging of apprenticeship initiatives are needed.

Improving working environments and addressing mental health.

As well as the lack of promotion of the opportunities covered above, the catering and hospitality sector also suffers from having a reputation as a stressful working environment. Chefs, kitchen and waiting staff typically work long unsociable hours, earning relatively low salaries. Catering and hospitality is the fourth largest employment sector in the U.K but struggles to fill vacancies.

In a bid to attract more talent into their kitchens some employers are taking creative steps to offer something unique to prospective employees. Cash payments in return for joining and staying for a specified period of time or “golden handshakes” are becoming more common in the industry. Some employers are going further by reducing working hours to give staff better work-life balance. More restaurants are choosing to open on four or five days per week to offer their teams a better quality of life.

Mental health remains a significant problem across the catering and hospitality, according to the industry’s benevolent organisation, Hospitality Action. Working in high pressurised and sometimes hostile environments can take its toll on workers both mentally and physically. In response to the problem awareness campaigns and support initiatives such as the Pilot Light campaign is working to offer support to those in need and to improve working environments.

The causes of and solutions to the skills shortage in the U.K’s food and drink sector are complex. Without better promotion as a career choice and more activity to encourage young people to enter initially, the combination of issues will continue to create a skills deficit.

We’ve touched upon some on the issues. We’d love to hear your thoughts too. Connect with us on social media or email us.

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