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Full of Potential: The Food Service Industry

Eleanor De, about 6 years ago

For several years, the food industry has been on the brink of an employment crisis. In 2015, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills found that restaurants were struggling to fill nearly half of all skilled chef vacancies and last year The Caterer reported that the skills shortage in the hospitality is the worst it has ever been such that 1.3 million employees will have to be recruited by 2024.

Part of this problem is a consequence of Brexit because workforces in restaurants are made up of 23% non-UK nationals, according to human resources consultancy Mercer, and their partner Gary Simmons, has remarked that in the coming years 'every company in every sector in the UK will be competing for a reduced pool of available workers'.

Another issue is that many workers in the food industry prefer to work on a temporary basis to avoid the hours required of permanent positions. In a similar vein, employment in the food and hospitality industries has become more transient as more people seek short-term café and restaurant jobs. Martin-Christian Kent, Executive Director for Research, Policy and Operations at People 1st, has pointed out the importance of staff retention in saving employers money and notes that most businesses now choose to concentrate their human resources efforts on getting good staff and keeping them. This sentiment is echoed by Moira Laird, Human Resources Director at Valor Hospitality, who says that 'we are obsessed by employee engagement, which is all about retention'.

So, given the current climate of the food industry and the drive to fill the skills gap with a qualified and committed workforce, we have developed a series which showcases a handful of success stories from the sector. Ex-prisoners and people with convictions are uniquely placed to contribute to the food and hospitality industries because they are particularly driven, committed and generally seeking permanent employment upon release.

This potential has not gone unnoticed and there now exist many fantastic programmes for prisoners and people with convictions to develop their skills, from learning how to roast coffee to baking bread to the transformation of prison cafeterias into professional restaurants.

We hope this series will give employers in the sector a taste of the talent offered by ex-offenders.