Vintners: Yes, this is a great sector to build a career

In day three of our series on the struggles facing the hospitality industry in securing staff, we hear from BRIAN FOLEY, Communications and Public Affairs Manager with the Vintners Federation of Ireland
Vintners: Yes, this is a great sector to build a career

The sector must play its part in attracting new talent, a spokesman for the Vintners Federation of Ireland said. Picture: Stock

IF you want to understand the staffing shortage currently gripping the pub trade and wider hospitality sector you need to understand the uncertainty that took hold over the course of the pandemic.

In March 2020, staff were told pubs would close for two weeks. That shutdown stretched out to over three months. In late June food pubs and restaurants were allowed open, while pubs that only served alcohol remained shut for another three months.

All pubs opened in late September 2020, then closed three weeks later. Then opened again for December only to close on Christmas Eve for a further six months.

You get the picture. For staff, uncertainty about their future in the pub trade reached stratospheric levels. Simply put, people working in pubs hadn’t a clue when, or if, there job would return. Little wonder many found employment elsewhere.

They found jobs that better suited their lives, no more late nights, home to their families at a normal hour.

Even today, the uncertainty continues. As I write this article it’s possible the removal of all restrictions on 22nd October will be postponed. What are staff meant to think?

That’s the background. Remember, back in 2019 before the pandemic there was over 270,000 people working in hospitality and rising. So the claim by some that wages is the reason for current staff shortages simply doesn’t stack up.

The question everyone wants an answer to: is the shortage in personnel a temporary problem or does it signal a more long-term trend?

The first point to make is that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will remain in place until February 2022. It’s only when the PUP aligns with the standard jobseeker’s payment will we move to a ‘level playing pitch’.

While I never subscribed to the theory that workers were kicking back and refusing to get a job because of the PUP, the ending of the emergency payment will clarify the situation. Put simply, we should see more workers seeking jobs in the hospitality sector.

The second and more important point is that we have to better ‘sell’ the idea that a job in the pub trade can be a satisfying and rewarding career. That message has somehow got lost over the past 18 months.

People come to work in hospitality for all sorts of reasons. For sure, the part-time student is a staple of the trade and that should continue even after the pandemic.

Working in hospitality is a great way for young people to ‘learn the ropes’. They learn about money, a work ethic and, most importantly, how to interact with the general public. That’s a priceless life skill to acquire and the pub is the best place to find that knowledge.

While students will eventually move on from their part-time roles, for others there is a great opportunity to build a proper career in the pub trade.

The sector must play its part in attracting new talent. The competition for staff is red hot at present so it’s our responsibility to treat people fairly and show them a job in hospitality is a viable option.

Young people are presented with an increasingly diverse range of jobs to choose from these days. That choice is only going to increase over the coming decade.

The hospitality trade has to ask itself where does it fit in to this changing nature of work.

People will focus on career development and honing their skills as they progress through life. Hospitality must rise to the challenge by showing prospective employees that this is a great sector to build their career.

The focus on skills and continuous professional development will attract new talent to the trade, which will bring its own spin-offs in terms of innovation and new ways of doing things.

In the short term, more people will return to the trade as certainty that we have reopened permanently builds and the PUP winds down.

However, the long-term project to attract and retain staff will be an ongoing issue requiring constant effort to inform and educate a dynamic young workforce that hospitality is a career of which to be proud.

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