London borough scheme helps to fill staffing shortages

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

London calling: the scheme is ideally looking to place school or college leavers into hospitality roles (credit: Getty/SolStock)
London calling: the scheme is ideally looking to place school or college leavers into hospitality roles (credit: Getty/SolStock)

Related tags Training Finance Westminster Works

More than 200 businesses in one London borough have been given support in a bid to help fill 121,000 hospitality job vacancies in the UK.

The Borough of Westminster launched a multi-million pound scheme a year ago to tackle this staffing crisis in the London ward and so far it has helped over 220 businesses secure new staff with more than 7,000 people registered in the scheme.

The initiative, called Westminster Works, has been funded by Westminster City Council  and aside from attracting interest from over 7,000 potential employees in the first six weeks, it has placed 150 people in new roles, from barista to bartender, reception manager to chef de partie all at London living wage rates or above.

The organisers cited data from the ONS that there are more than 121,000 unfilled job vacancies in the accommodation and food services industry alone in the UK while UKHospitality has previously said staff shortages have costs sector firms £21bn in lost revenue last year and led to 45% of operators reducing opening hours or closing at least one day a week.

World-class hospitality offer

Recognised as having a world-class hospitality and leisure offering, Westminster is home to more than 3,700 pubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes and a further 4,000 leisure businesses, supporting about 120,000 jobs.

Jason Sham, head of recruitment at Arcade Foodhall, which has benefited from the scheme, said: “Since joining the Westminster Works scheme we have taken on around 16 full-time new employees and have been looking in particular at how we can recruit, train and support more inexperienced staff such as school or college leavers.

“All our entry level roles pay a competitive wage, with some of them paying up to £15 an hour and it’s really important to us that we offer this, not only because it’s the right thing to do to support our staff, but because it will enable us to attract and retain the best talent, helping to give us a competitive advantage as a business.”

The potential recruits are offered bespoke training run by Step Ahead. Candidates are first enrolled in a Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Excellence in Customer Service for Hospitality, upon completion of which they are offered guaranteed interviews with selected employers in the Westminster Works scheme.

120 live vacancies

Candidates can then go on to take either a Level 1 course in employability skills or a Level 1 in personal and social development, with each course lasting just seven days and being completed fully remotely.

Westminster Works said there are currently more than 120 live vacancies in a diverse range of hospitality roles in some of London’s most prestigious bars, hotels and restaurants.

Paul Barnes, programme director for AttisTowns, which created the initiative in partnership with Step Ahead, New West End Company and Knightsbridge Partnership, said: “Despite an uncertain economic landscape, this programme has shown that collaboration is key to tackling the recruitment crisis in the hospitality and leisure sectors and I look forward to seeing what more we can achieve together over the coming months, particularly as we head into a critical trading period for hospitality businesses.”

Step Ahead CEO Jackie Bedford added: “We have been thrilled with the response from job seekers since Westminster Works first launched, and that we’ve been able to support so many people to discover exciting new roles within Westminster hospitality and leisure businesses.

“I hope the scheme’s success will encourage many more from all backgrounds to consider a career in these industries and that it will inspire businesses to think differently about the way they recruit and retain staff.”

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