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VisitEngland reveals chef shortage figures as part of drive to attract young people to the industry during English Tourism Week

VisitEngland has announced new figures highlighting the shortage of skilled chefs across the country. Nearly half, (47 per cent) of vacancies for chefs proved difficult to fill due to a lack of skilled applicants. Chefs made up a fifth (21 per cent) of all skill shortage vacancies for skilled trades, suggesting that businesses are struggling to recruit the skilled chefs they need.

VisitEngland is highlighting the issue during English Tourism Week (14-22 March) to encourage young people to enter the industry and in particular, consider being a chef as a career option. Emphasising the work already being done by the hospitality sector to attract young people to take up apprenticeships, it also urges the entire sector to make even greater efforts to recruit more chefs.  

English tourism is predicted to be one of the biggest drivers of economic growth over the next decade, already worth £106bn (9% of total GDP) supporting 2.6m jobs. By 2025 the value of tourism in England is set to double to over £216bn, providing 1 in every 10 jobs.

However skills shortages are a major threat to tourism achieving its growth potential.   

Figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey reveal that 1 in 5 vacancies in the hotel and restaurant sector are skilled jobs. When it comes to skilled chefs this rises to nearly half (44 per cent).  

Chef shortages are particularly prevalent in London (66 per cent) and in the South East (46 per cent).   

The shortage of chefs is despite the growth in popularity for ‘foodie’ destinations.  Waiting lists are long for tables at popular spots such as The Fat Duck in Bray, Hix, Lyme Regis, Rick Stein’s restaurants in Padstow and Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons Oxford. If hotels, restaurants and pubs are to meet the demand for tourism in these areas, the chef skills shortage issue needs to be addressed.  

Commenting on the new chef shortage statistics, Tom Kerridge, chef patron of the ever popular, Michelin starred The Hand and Flowers and newly opened pub The Coach, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire says “The hospitality industry is a vibrant, fun and exciting place to be with many opportunities for growth and promotion, travel and experiences. The skill levels are so varied with so much to learn from base level catering through to highly skilled cookery or simple customer service, all the way through to fine dining. It is a wonderful career that I’m very proud to have chosen”.  

James Berresford Chief Executive of VisitEngland says “We are proud of England’s growing foodie reputation which relies heavily on skilled chefs delivering quality across the many fantastic restaurants, pubs and hotels across the country. We need to ensure there is enough being done at grass roots level to inspire young chefs to enter the industry and fill the skills gap, if we are to meet visitor demand.”  

Addressing the skills gap issue, the industry is rallying to encourage young people to take up apprenticeship schemes. The Big Hospitality Conversation is a nationwide campaign led by the British Hospitality Association uniting more than 1,500 businesses so far to provide hospitality and tourism careers for young people. As part of English Tourism Week, restaurants, hotels and catering establishments across South Yorkshire have come together (Tuesday 17th March 2015 at Sheffield Hallam University) to pledge job opportunities, apprenticeships and work placements for 16-24 year olds. Over 40,000 job opportunities have so far been created at events like the one at Sheffield Hallam University and tourism and hospitality industry is set to create up to 60,000 jobs for young people by 2016.  

Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association says: “The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the best industries in the world. Our industry helps to take young talent and nurture it and develop people into future leaders, stars, franchisees, and chief executives. It takes people from dishes to riches, from kitchens to boardrooms on the way up the career ladder. We want The Big Hospitality Conversation to showcase the vibrancy of a hospitality career, attracting more young people to the industry, reducing skills shortages and helping to tackle youth unemployment.”  

Brigid Simmonds Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association says “Making sure we have the training, apprenticeships and skills we need in the tourism sector is vital, and Visit England is absolutely right to highlight the issue. Our Pub Chef Passion initiative aims to attract thousands more talented young people into the pub and bar industry, and address the skills shortage facing pub kitchens. It is an exciting and demanding career that offers young people development, rewards and a great working environment. We need to do all we can to promote these opportunities to young people, to attract new talent into our pub kitchens”.  

Martin-Christian Kent, Executive Director, People 1st a multi-sector recruiter says: “Employers report that 42% of chef vacancies are hard to fill. At the same time, a recent survey by People 1st found that 51% of colleges offering full-time programmes have seen a fall in numbers since last year. It is clear that there the industry faces a severe shortage of chefs unless action is taken to stop the decline. The new apprenticeship standards for professional and production chefs developed by employers and supported by People 1st, as well as the City & Guilds Professional Cookery Diploma delivered full-time in college provide essential entry routes into the industry for those wishing to become a chef.  We know that there is employer demand, but we are calling on employers to come together and back an industry-wide campaign to stimulate demand onto these programmes and ensure we have more people entering the industry to pursue a career as a chef.”  

Simon Vincent, President, EMEA, Hilton Worldwide: “Our Food and Beverage teams served over 9.7 million customers in England last year, so attracting the best talent into our kitchens is crucial if visitors are going to experience the very best this country has to offer.  In my role as co-industry chair of the UK Tourism Council we’re committed to working with government in addressing the shortage of trained chefs, and are leading a hospitality working group in launching new apprenticeship standards for chefs, preparing the next generation of leaders to carry the flag for English cuisine.”  

English Tourism Week is led by the national tourist board, VisitEngland, and is an industry-wide initiative designed to shine a light on the importance of tourism in England. Hundreds of tourism organisations and businesses will be putting on events to celebrate English Tourism Week this year.

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