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Arts & Culture

Hundreds of jobs in hospitality remain unfilled

A public and private partnership that works to attract investment and tourism into the area is working with employers and partners to help address the hospitality job crisis in the region. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the North East still has the highest unemployment rates outside of London, yet the hospitality industry in the region is struggling to fill hundreds of vacancies.

Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI) have recently consulted with employers to gain further insight around the issues and recruitment challenges they are facing. Their survey has revealed that more than 80% of pubs, cafes, restaurants, and hotels are struggling to recruit, with an average of 15 roles per employer, equating to more than 360 unfilled vacancies.

Vacancies range from housekeeping, bar staff, and chefs to customer experience managers, food and beverage managers, and specialist skilled staff. However, there are more vacancies for restaurant serving staff than any other.

When employers were asked about what is causing the crisis, feedback was that former staff have found work outside the industry during lockdown and the struggle to bring staff back from furlough is an issue. The uncertainty of the pandemic has also led to people seeking stability within other sectors.

Perceptions of long and unsociable hours were also cited as well as lack of loyalty as businesses compete to fill roles and operate at full capacity. When asked what support is needed to overcome these challenges a permanent continuation of VAT and rate reductions, recruitment days, the need for engagement from training and employment organisations and a need to change the perception and narrative surrounding careers within the sector were all mentioned.

This is not just a regional issue, but a national challenge.

Nationally the ONS data shows that the number of vacancies in the country grew exponentially in May 2021. When broken down by sector the accommodation and food service sector saw a 266% growth in vacancies between March 2021 – May 2022.  According to industry body UK Hospitality, there is a national shortfall of almost 190,000 workers, with the demand for chefs and front of house staff being exceptionally high.

On (Tuesday 29 June), to support the industry, NGI hosted a webinar where tourism and hospitality businesses heard the latest on support and solutions that are immediately available to recruit staff and that will continue to help them retain and attract new people.

Speakers included representatives from Jobcentre Plus, Newcastle City Council and the Newcastle United Foundation. The webinar also provided a platform to bring the industry together and facilitate new ideas and long-term solutions that will restore confidence and stimulate demand for a career in the industry.

Ian Thomas, director of leisure tourism and research at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “There continues to be significant investment into Newcastle’s tourism and hospitality offer with the recent launch of a Hard Rock Café and Melia Hotel, as well as approval for a £11.5m 5* hotel that will transform the fire station in the city centre and a £30m hotel complex complete with a rooftop swimming pool on Grey Street. This continued investment shows confidence in the future of Newcastle and Gateshead and our ability to bounce back to pre-pandemic visitor numbers. However, we all must work together to come up with new ideas and solutions that will help tackle this significant recruitment challenge that cities across the UK are facing.

“It has been a perfect storm of contributing factors such as the pandemic, Brexit, and furlough. Furlough while positive when venues were closed, its allowed people to move on.  I would encourage all hospitality employers who could not make the event to watch it back to find out more about the immediate support available to fill roles. I would also encourage them to complete our survey, share their experiences and challenges so we can inform local authorities and central government of the issues they are facing. This will also support the city region to drive new ideas, projects and initiatives that will create demand for jobs, change perceptions, shine a light on the sector as well as help address rising unemployment levels.”

To watch the event back visit or to complete NGI’s survey visit