Stephen Kyjak-Lane, general manager of the Lancaster London hotel and the new chairman of the London advisory board of hospitality careers charity Springboard, has said a Government minister for hospitality is needed to promote the industry to jobseekers and bring down unemployment figures.
The hospitality industry also needs to do more to promote jobs in the sector and the opportunities that working in restaurants, hotels and pubs and bars can provide, Kyjak-Lane argued.
UK unemployment rose to 2.67m in the three months to December 2011, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week.
Speaking to BigHospitality after the release of the jobseeker figures, Kyjak-Lane said it was the Government's responsibility to lead behaviours and it was failing in that role by not having a spokesperson for the hospitality industry.
"We have a minister for the disabled, we have a minister for energy, but the seventh largest industry in terms of revenue generation in the UK is the hospitality industry. It is the fifth largest employment industry and we do not have a minister. We need a minister sitting at that long table opposite MrCameron saying 'look what about hospitality', without this we will never get a focus for young people to join it," he said.
The unemployment rate for those aged 16-24 jumped to 22.2 per cent in the last three months of the year and Kyjak-Lane said many young people were being left behind if they could not find the perfect job when the hotel sector, among others, had good positions available.
"The hospitality industry, which is the fifth largest employer by number in the country, has a fantastic opportunity for unemployed young people between 18-24. The hospitality industry needs to stand up and shout a little bit more than they do currently about the opportunities which are available for that 'limboed youth'," he said.
Kyjak-Lane has recently been appointed as chairman of the London advisory board of The Springboard Charity but said he felt passionately that it was his role to argue for Government to act more as a spokesperson for the industry which could drive future revenue for the country and employ people in similar careers to the one he had been lucky enough to pursue. The charity promotes careers in the industry in the UK and helps find employment for young people, especially those that are disadvantaged.
Robert Holland, general manager at the Bermondsey Square Hotel, told BigHospitality he was struggling to fill job roles despite the seemingly high unemployment. Holland agreed the industry was not seen enough as an attractive career prospect, particularly for those born in the UK.
"We are paying decent wages for people to work here at the hotel but we can't employ UK citizens seemingly. I employ 45 staff, I probably have 16 different nationalities working here," he said. Whilst Holland said the diversity was positive for the hotel he was keen to employ local people as well to help the economy and bring down unemployment figures.
Kyjak-Lane echoed these comments and said he seldom got a UK applicant for posts he advertised which highlighted the need for a Government hospitality champion.
"That is exactly emphasising everything I have been saying. Until we have a minister sitting at whoever is the Prime Minister's table talking about opportunities in the hospitality industry and then focusing on Governmental programmes to make the hospitality industry a priority we are never going to get a focus so young people want to come and join it," he said.