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Relax immigration laws to help address chef shortage, says recruiter

By Emma Eversham+ , 28-Sep-2015
Last updated on 28-Sep-2015 at 15:11 GMT2015-09-28T15:11:28Z

Allowing more migrant workers to apply for chef jobs could help solve the chef shortage, says The Change Group
Allowing more migrant workers to apply for chef jobs could help solve the chef shortage, says The Change Group

The chef shortage problem could be eased temporarily by relaxing Britain's immigration laws to allow a 'freer movement of chef talent' around the globe, the director of hospitality recruitment company The Change Group has claimed. 

According to research carried out by the company, only a third of applicants for top chef roles in London are from Britain with the number falling to just a fifth for applications for chef de partie jobs. 

While workers from the EU make up more than half of the applications for skilled chef jobs in London, only 14 per cent are currently from non-EU migrants. 

The Change Group director Craig Allen said that while hospitality is often viewed as a sector open to migrant workers, the company's figures, gleaned from its database of 1,200 job-seeking chefs, prove otherwise and suggests changes to immigration laws could help fill vacancies until a homegrown solution is found. 

“There is not enough British talent applying for chef careers and the number of skilled applicants from the EU isn’t enough to meet the demand," he said. "We need to attract more skilled migrants from other countries to bridge the gap. To do this, we need to change immigration policy. 

“By reviewing immigration laws relating to skilled migrants, we could encourage freer movement of chef talent which in turn would support growth UK hospitality industry. This could also have a direct impact on income from UK tourism which is vital to the economy as highlighted recently by David Cameron."

Short-term fix

Currently chefs from outside the EU must earn £29,570 a year to be permitted to work in the UK, which many, like Oli Khan, chef and senior vice president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association believe, is not possible to sustain Britain's commercial kitchens. Allen claimed relaxing the law would buy the industry time in finding a sustainable solution to staffing.  

“Increasing the chef talent pool by opening up our borders will enable the hospitality industry to cope with current recruitment demands while addressing the bigger issue of how to attract more UK workers into chef careers," he said. 

“There is no doubt that the long term solution is to boost the number of Britons wanting a career as a chef. However, we need a short term fix as restaurants in London are struggling to find skilled chefs at all levels with demand simply outweighing supply."

Tackling the chef shortage

The chef shortage has hit a critical point this year with 42 per cent of vacancies considered hard to fill according to People 1st and chef Daniel Clifford predicting the industry's demise  if nothing is done to change things. 

Suggested solutions from chefs surveyed by The Change Group include better investment in work experience programmes (39 per cent) and building a positive image for careers in hospitality (35 per cent). With a quarter saying they have been looking to work elsewhere because of a better quality of life, there is also the suggestion that the industry must create a better work-life balance.