Ulster Hospitality calls for more robust legislation to recruit skilled chefs
THE north's £1.3 billion hospitality sector has been dealt a blow in its bid to improve its skills base after its nearest neighbour moved towards new legislation to recruit chefs from outside the domestic market and European Economic Area (EEA).
And Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill claims the move will put restaurants, bars and hotels in the north at a huge disadvantage to those in the south.
Last week the Republic confirmed that it is to legislate to allow the recruitment of suitably qualified chefs from outside its home market, which means it will be able to fill vacancies more easily and continue to grow.
"In essence, this amounts to another competitive disadvantage for the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland, where the current shortfall of chefs is predicted to reach 2,000 by 2024,” Mr Neill said.
"Hiring suitable chefs is a problem for businesses in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, yet we're again left to look on with envy at our neighbours, who can cast their net wider to fill their chef vacancies while we simply cannot recruit the required number of chefs from Northern Ireland alone."
He added: "The Northern Ireland's hospitality sector faces unique challenges, especially with Brexit on the horizon, and Hospitality Ulster has long been calling for government to address our skills shortage.
"There are a number of basic common sense approaches which need to be adopted including inviting in local skills and training, maintaining the common travel area, ensuring no changes to the rights of Republic of Ireland citizens to work in Northern Ireland and mutual recognition of qualifications.
"But as the Republic has recognised, even with all these measures their simply isn't enough of a labour pool to address the shortfall.
"Westminster needs to recognise we are a unique market and adopt a regional migration strategy for Northern Ireland, one that allows for the local labour shortfall and economic conditions.
"Hospitality is working for Northern Ireland, currently contributes more than £1.3 billion to the economy and supporting over 60,000 jobs, so supporting the sector is to everyone's benefit.''