Tasmania’s third-largest employing industry is facing a dire shortage of skilled workers with 84.17% of hospitality operators reporting a severe shortage of staff. A recent survey by the Tasmanian Hospitality Association showed that almost 28% of respondents already had, or expected to have, five or more job vacancies in the next three to six months. Chefs, kitchen and bar staff are most in demand as well as wait staff, hotel and guest services personnel, and cleaners.

THA CEO Steve Old explains to Dave a combination of factors have resulted in the skills crisis. “The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of our entire industry and while JobKeeper was vital for many businesses, the scheme excluded casual workers who had been at the venues for less than 12 months and really that’s a large portion of the hospitality workforce” Old said.

 

The THA survey shows that casual workers have not returned to hospitality with 85% of the forecast vacancies being casual positions. Steve Old says “those people were forced to go and get other jobs to survive during the pandemic and it’s kept them out of the hospitality industry long term. Similarly, the exclusion of many Visa holders from the JobKeeper scheme drove many people away from the sector and with international borders closed for the foreseeable future we won’t see international workers come back to the industry for quite some time. The industry relies on them for skilled roles such as chefs and cooks”.

 

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Nearly 94% of operators who reported a skills shortage in their business, attributed the crisis to a lack of local skilled workers, and 39% cited a lack of appropriate training. “This is exactly why we have initiated Tasmanian Hospitality and Tourism Training (THTT) and CEO Emilie Donovan and the board are already working extremely hard to identify areas of most critical need and develop robust industry-specific training, but that doesn’t happen overnight” Old said. “There’s no quick fix to this crisis but there is a solution. It’s about getting our young people engaged and making hospitality jobs a desirable, long term career path which is what we’re trying to do through our workforce development team and through THTT” Old said.

 

“Tasmania’s youth unemployment rate is the worst in the country at around 13.8%. With appropriate funding THTT has the potential to provide meaningful, job-ready training to our young people and get them excited about hospitality. We’ll be working with THTT and our interstate counterparts to lobby State and Federal governments for adequate funding and incentive schemes to bring people into the industry and train them well” Old said.

 

The THA will lobby both State and Federal Governments for an incentive program to attract workers to, and back to, the sector so the industry can get back on its feet. “We’re working with our national counterparts, the AHA and the TAA, to advocate for hospitality to be listed as a critical sector for temporary Visas and roles included on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List but the Federal Government needs to respect the value of the sector and work to get more young people employed and engaged for long term careers” Old said.

 

The issues aren’t confined to the Tasmanian hospitality industry, a skill shortage is being experienced in other States and in other industries but it needs to become a priority for Governments at all levels. Old says “the skill shortage in hospitality will severely impact the tourism sector as well. The premium experience we’re selling to visitors cannot be fulfilled if the quality hospitality destinations they’re expecting are significantly lacking or don’t exist at all”.