By Julie White, CEO of Hospitality New Zealand
New Zealand’s hospitality sector needs migrant workers and government support to fill skill shortages
Prior to COVID-19, New Zealand’s hospitality industry was already experiencing a significant shortage of ready and appropriately skilled people to fill roles. With 20-30% of the 172,800 people currently employed across New Zealand’s accommodation, food and beverage services on working visas, we’re a sector heavily reliant on migrant workers. And now, in this critical recovery stage, many operators are trying to operate as best they can, often relying on migrants to keep doors open.
Hospitality operators are striving to employ more Kiwis, however, at the core of this issue is the insufficient availability of skilled workers. While the barrier to entry for a career in hospitality is low, it can easily lead to rapid career progression or even business ownership. I strongly refute claims that hospitality jobs don’t require skilled workers. Almost all roles within hospitality require training and differing levels of skills – many of which carry with them statutory responsibilities, such as the sale and supply of alcohol or upholding food safety regulations.
Migrants are not taking away work from Kiwis. There’s simply not enough people in the right regions with the right skill-sets to perform some of these roles, particularly those of chefs, duty managers, and in some locations housekeepers. This issue is exacerbated by the current perception that hospitality and tourism aren’t viable and legitimate career options – or given the gravitas it should through the education system.
We’ve always wanted to encourage Kiwis into hospitality careers. Currently, one in five Hospitality New Zealand members are advertising positions, but very few applicants have the necessary training and experience to fill the roles. Furthermore, of all our industry members that have gone to Work and Income (WINZ) to source café, restaurant, or bar managers, 93% weren’t able to find suitable candidates and of those trying to recruit a chef, 86% were unable to find suitable candidates.
If the Government is serious about creating employment opportunities for New Zealanders, they should develop training pathways that cater to individuals looking to upskill. In order to achieve this, the public sector needs to focus on attracting and retaining people in the hospitality industry. As the talent pipeline is the foundation for the future, this strategy needs to begin at school level education. It should also include a hand in glove approach with the sector that supports people into workforce pathways, enabling career growth through on-site training. The secret to getting more Kiwis into work is simple – targeted sector training, from micro-credentials through to qualifications and the opportunity for upward mobility in their career.