New employment scheme targets hospitality talent shortage

With the UK hospitality sector struggling on multiple fronts, the new UK government-backed scheme could boost access to trained workers

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The UK government has launched a new employment scheme to train and match jobseekers with open hospitality roles in the UK restaurant, bar and hotel industries.

Amid a critical shortage of talent that’s affecting an already-beleaguered hospitality sector, the government scheme offers some welcome relief to those running a restaurant or bar.

The Hospitality Sector-based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) is a programme of learning launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in collaboration with UKHospitality.

UK hospitality SWAP scheme explained

The scheme is designed to provide tailored training for jobseekers from industry experts, allowing them to move into a career in hospitality and boost workforce participation in the sector.

Its key aim is to help benefit claimants gain an industry-recognised accreditation that’s endorsed by hospitality leaders including Greene King, Marriott Hotels and ACC Liverpool.

Programme participants will complete qualifications and accredited training in areas such as health and safety, food safety, licensing, and conflict resolution to add to their Hospitality Skills Passport – a digital pass that can be added to CVs to show employers jobseekers have the skill set required by the sector.

They will also receive training in confidence and assertiveness to build personal skills and strength.

From training to interview

The programme concludes with a guaranteed job interview, helping job seekers score a progression opportunity and the chance to apply their new skills on the pathway to an apprenticeship.

“Hospitality is a fantastic sector that offers a diverse variety of career opportunities, which is why it’s so well suited to helping people back into work,” says Kate Nicholls, chief executive at UKHospitality.

Following the pilot launch in Liverpool, there are plans to expand the programme to cities across England and Wales from October, including London, Manchester and Birmingham.

“We’re delighted to be involved with the trial, giving unemployed people the skills to launch their hospitality careers, helping them find exciting jobs with engaged local businesses, and showcasing what fantastic development opportunities our industry offers through training and apprenticeships,” adds Chris Gamm, CEO of Springboard, a charity that gives young, unemployed and underprivileged people the skills and confidence to start a career.

Filling the gap

SWAP aims to address labour shortages in the hospitality industry – and according to government data, there are currently over 120,000 vacancies in the sector.

Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the level of vacancies in hospitality was still 48% higher than pre-pandemic levels. This skills shortage is putting a strain on small businesses who are already under intense pressure from high interest rates, increased energy bills and the cost of living crisis as a whole.

While hospitality businesses in transport hubs have seen a surge in activity thanks to travel being back to normal post-pandemic, these wins are – on the whole – exclusive to chains rather than SMEs. Businesses like Puccino’s, FCB Coffee and Pret A Manger have all recently announced new locations at such hubs.

It is hoped that the talent created through SWAP can directly impact SMEs in the hospitality sector to create a much needed boost to skilled teams and operational success.

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Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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