The trade body has written to ministers expressing its ‘dismay’ that new T-Level qualifications in catering and hospitality will be delayed until 2022, a year and a half after free movement is expected to end after Brexit.
The BHA hoped that the technical courses, which were announced in March, would help plug skills gaps in the restaurant industry by training 16-19 year olds to work in the sector from 2019.
Teaching will now not start until 2022, meaning newly qualified staff wil not be available until 2023 at the earliest.
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim fears the delay will cost jobs and growth in the hospitality sector.
“We are not in a position to fill these vacancies without hiring non-UK workers,” Ibrahim wrote in her letter to immigration minister Brandon Lewis.
“This is due to the fact that the UK is currently at near full employment and because the educational system does not encourage young people to consider a career in hospitality.
“It was my hope that the new Catering and Hospitality T-Level would address the latter point and so I was dismayed to find out that these qualifications have been delayed until the second round.”
Reliance on EU staff
The Office for National Statistics estimates that 64,000 EU nationals work in the UK restaurant and hotel sector.
The BHA has warned that restricting immigration after Brexit could be ‘catastrophic’ for the industry, which already needs an extra 260,000 workers a year to fill vacancies.
“If migratory flows for workers from the EU and beyond are severely curtailed…the hospitality industry will be forced to contract, costing jobs and economic growth,” Ibrahim wrote. “Automation is not a viable alternative in our sector.”
Ibrahim is calling on Lewis to work with education minister Anne Milton to stop the delay in the start of the courses.
“I am sure it is possible for these two departments to talk to each other and sort this out so that our industry is not being asked to find more UK workers with one hand tied behind our back,” she said.
The BHA has previously called for the introduction of specific visas for hospitality and tourism staff after Brexit.