The tourism body is highlighting the issue during English Tourism Week (14-22 March), as part of a drive to encourage young people to consider a career as a chef.
One in five vacancies in the hotel and restaurant sector are for skilled jobs, with the figure rising to 44 per cent for skilled chefs, according to a survey from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
Shortages were particularly bad in London (66 per cent) and the South East (26 per cent).
The UK’s growing ‘foodie’ reputation is becoming a major driver of English tourism, predicted to be one of the biggest sources of economic growth over the next decade.
VisitEngland fears the lack of skilled chefs could limit potential growth in English tourism, already worth £106bn (nine per cent of total GDP), supporting 2.6m jobs.
“We are proud of England’s growing foodie reputation which relies heavily on skilled chefs delivering quality across the many fantastic restaurants, pubs and hotels across the country,” said James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland.
“We need to ensure there is enough being done at grass roots level to inspire young chefs to enter the industry and fill the skills gap, if we are to meet visitor demand.”
Waiting lists are long for tables at popular sites such as The Fat Duck in Bray, Hix, Lyme Regis, Rick Stein’s restaurants in Padstow and Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford.
A greater number of skilled staff will be needed in order to meet visitor demands in the future.
Tackling recruitment issues
A survey by People 1st found that 51 per cent of catering college’s offering full-time courses have seen a decline in numbers since last year.
The industry has been taking steps to tackle the growing recruitment crisis, with more companies increasing the number of apprenticeships on offer.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and Perceptions Group have joined forces to improve chef skills for those working in the pub and bar sector.
The Big Hospitality Conversation, a nationwide campaign led by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), has united over 1,500 businesses to provide hospitality and tourism careers for young people.
“The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the best industries in the world. It takes people from dishes to riches, from kitchens to boardrooms on the way up the career ladder," said Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA.
“We want The Big Hospitality Conversation to showcase the vibrancy of a hospitality career, attracting more young people to the industry, reducing skills shortages and helping to tackle youth unemployment.”
As part of English Tourism Week the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is running a social media campaign highlighting career paths and opportunities across the industry using the hashtags #tourismcareers and #mytourismjob.