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Barista visas 'won't solve hospitality staffing crisis'

By Sophie Witts , 21-Apr-2017
Last updated on 21-Apr-2017 at 16:29 GMT2017-04-21T16:29:10Z

Barista visas 'won't solve hospitality staffing crisis'

Introducing short-term ‘barista visas’ for EU migrants would only worsen the long-term staffing crisis in the UK’s restaurants, pubs and cafes, hospitality recruiter The Change Group has warned.

Proposals for a two-year scheme which would allow young Europeans to work in the UK hospitality industry after Brexit were suggested by Migration Watch UK last week and dubbed a ‘good idea’ by a Home Office source.

But Change Group said that while the plan would help staff entry-level positions, it would leave the UK struggling to build a base of skilled employees seeking a long-term career in the industry.

“Two years is not long enough to transform a kitchen porter into a sous chef, or to acquire the skills of a sommelier,” said Craig Allen, director at Change Group.

“Our concern is that restaurants will either be training up staff who will leave after two years due to visa expiration, meaning we are losing more talent, or they will continue to struggle to fill key roles in the kitchen, back office and front-of-house.”

According to research by People 1st the ‘revolving door’ culture of hospitality work already costs the sector £272m a year, with over two-thirds of restaurants and hotels struggling for staff.

Change Group said just a third of applications it received  for hospitality jobs were from British workers, while 56% were from EU citizens outside the UK.

The recruiter warned that plans for a two-year visa showed the government had a ‘complete misunderstanding’ of the hospitality industry’s potential.

“Learning hospitality is not a two-year stint for roaming backpackers,” said Allen. “The government needs to build hospitality as a genuine career choice at school, college and university as well as to ease immigration of skilled migrants.”

The fate of the industry's EU workers has been left uncertain ahead of the snap general election called for 8 June, though a government White Paper released in February indicated plans to secure the rights of those already working in the UK early in the Brexit negotiations.