Major Industry recruitment campaign critical part of a strategy to address staffing issues and skills shortages
Northern Ireland’s hospitality and tourism industry has been one of the economic success stories, but even before the pandemic skills shortages were hitting the sector, an issue amplified by Brexit and lockdowns resulting in a staffing crisis.
Employer-led network the Hospitality & Tourism Skills network (HATS) has partnered with Tourism NI to spearhead a multi-channel advertising campaign to combat the crisis and promote the breadth of exciting opportunities that the industry has to offer potential job seekers.
Roisin McKee, director of the HATS network is clear there’s a need to restore confidence in the sector so that it is recognised as a stable and vaible option for fulfilling careers
“To help the sector recover, we urgently need to support businesses to fill current vacancies and to raise the profile of positions with good employers and inspire people to consider a career in the industry.”
There are incredible opportunities for people to join this industry yet there are still people who have misconceptions about the types of jobs available and the required skills. Employers are looking for people with personality and passion”
The industry recruitment campaign aligns employers’ needs, a portal for job applicants, as well as a best practice charter.
Running until the end of March 2022, the campaign features a series of quirky eye-catching job descriptions across billboards, outdoor advertising and social media to attract attention and highlight the dynamic and fast-paced roles available, helping to attract new recruits.
“We have an ambition to be able to attract, develop and retain the future talent that the industry needs,” Roisin explained.
We want to champion people at the heart of the industry and change the narrative – to be seen as an exciting industry offering quality jobs”
“And at the same time, focus on retaining the people that are already in the industry.”
Whilst recruitment challenges are not new to the sector, the combination of skills shortages pre-Covid with the pandemic lockdowns and the impact of Brexit have exacerbated the problem.
“You’ve had that start-stop nature of lockdown and the uncertainty and that forced people to give up on the sector,” said Roisin.
“People’s priorities have changed and we’ve also seen a lot of overseas workers that the sector is reliant on to help fill vacancies have returned home. The impact has limited their businesses’ ability to be able to operate at full capacity.”
As the hospitality and tourism sector begins to look forward there are key roles that are hard to recruit for, including kitchen staff, food and beverage roles, housekeeping and mid-management.
Roisin believes the new campaign will help address some of the issues but recognises that the industry has wider opportunities.
“We as consumers mostly experience customer facing roles,” she explained.
“However, a career in the industry is not limited to the reception, bar or the restaurant. There’s a wealth of diverse roles back of house and in supporting roles such as finance, HR, marketing and the wider visitor experience.
“Self-employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are also a huge pull for many entering the sector. We have people who follow their passion in areas such as craft beers and whiskey for example, and open up distilleries.”
For employers the campaign provides a chance to reach out.
“The campaign on its own isn’t enough. Businesses have a key role to play in showcasing their vacancies whether they’re part time, full time, entry level or management,” Roisin explained.
“And they can do that for free via Careerscope, the campaign job portal run by Springboard. “The opportunities will then be promoted to the job seekers that are being targeted by the campaign. We encourage businesses where possible to promote the flexibility and training offered in the roles to encourage more applications.”
Roisin said that with the challenges to attract and retain staff companies are looking at what they can offer.
“Many employers were already making great strides to actually address working practices, the culture, terms and conditions, pay and so on.
“There are many things that employers are doing.
“They are looking at addressing pay, improving work/life balance, offering perks and incentives, whether that be discounts on products and experiences or health insurance benefits.
“They recognise that they want to recognise and reward staff and set out progression and development opportunities too.”
As the HATS network was founded by a group of core leading employers from the sector from across both hospitality and tourism the employer component is vital .
“Leading employers recognised that the attraction and retention of talent was something that the industry needed to get involved in to address the situation.
“They’ve come together as part of the HATS network to put a plan in place to actually look at the activities and the solutions to be able to tackle these challenges. This campaign is just one of those solutions that has been taken forward.”
“To demonstrate that the industry is offering quality job experiences we’re also asking recruiting employers to sign up to implementing ‘Our Hospitality & Tourism Commitment’ in their business – a voluntary code of working practices developed in partnership with leading employers which covers critical areas such as working hours and learning and development.
Whilst employer-led, the overarching objectives of the HATS network to address attraction, rentetion and employee engagement also involve everyone else with a stake in the sector.
“It’s critical to have that cohort of employers but also the trade partners and delivery partners from government and education,” said Roisin.
“All of them have committed to coming together to see where we can impact positively on the sector’s issues around skills challenges.”
The ambition of the HATS network also goes beyond the immediate recruitment issues and looks to the longer term.
“There’s wider activity going on in terms of sign-posting training support and putting a spotlight on the career development pathways,” said Roisin.
“There are many opportunities for people to come into the industry, whether that’s through entry-level academy programmes and progressing on to apprenticeships and other programmes.
“From the HATS network perspective, we see the industry recruitment campaign as being a catalyst to create a better awareness of our industry, helping to bring people in.
“We want to be able to progress people on a career pathway. Whether that’s moving vertically or horizontally in the industry to progress their careers.”
The HATS network, which was set up in December 2019, brings together a diverse mix of employers from across the hospitality and tourism sector alongside industry associations and key delivery partners from government and education in order to collectively address issues around sector image, attractiveness and skills development into and within the sector.
The HATS network project is supported by Invest Northern Ireland under its Collaborative Growth Programme.