As the focus on the UK’s current labour crisis hots up after two difficult May bank holidays for businesses, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is continuing to be a leading figure in the national debate.
Managing Director Suzanne Caldwell appeared this week on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside James Reed, of REED recruitment, to discuss the UK-wide problem of staff recruitment.
Cumbria and the Lake District is one of the main areas suffering and the Chamber is continuing to urge the government to look again quickly to help companies redress this problem, which has arisen through a culmination of the Covid crisis, a staycation boom and the current UK-EU Brexit arrangements around migrant workers.
BBC presenters Nic Robinson and Martha Kearney focused on the issue on Wednesday morning after Nic had visited the county over the bank holiday weekend and read our concerns in the local press.
He said: “Where are the workers? That’s the headline I saw on my trip to the Lake District this week in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald.
“It reported on the fact that hotels, pubs and restaurants can’t fully reopen in parts of the Lakes as they simply don’t have the staff they need.
“It is a problem country-wide with hotel chain Best Western confirming they are too short staffed to open at full capacity. Why is it proving so hard to fill these posts?”
In discussion with the presenters and James Reed, Suzanne highlighted the issue we face across the county in nearly all sectors, including hospitality, manufacturing and logistics at length. An edit of the interview from Wednesday is below and the full programme can be listened to here.
Speaking afterwards, she said: “It is vital we continue to bang the drum in the media and to government in order to highlight the problems our members, and the Cumbrian economy as a whole, are dealing with.
“The government needs to be far more agile and make quick changes so that the system is far more liberal and flexible to short term migrant workers than it currently is.
“While we believe in the domestic UK workforce, it is clear there just aren’t enough people available for the level of vacancies and that means businesses are hampered when trying to bounce back from Covid.”
Cumbria Chamber is acting as a regional gateway provider as part of the government’s current Kickstart scheme. But current estimates from job sites and Chamber partner organisations show that there are still more than 1,000 key vacancies to be filled in the county, and around 700 in the hospitality sector alone.
UK Hospitality (UKH) and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have teamed up to face the rising crisis after UKH found a vacancy rate in the hospitality industry of nine per cent – equal to around 188,000 jobs.
It found 80 per cent of the businesses surveyed had vacancies for front of house positions, meaning waiting and bar staff, while 85 per cent were looking for chefs.
Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP, said: “It’s been a challenging time for the hospitality sector but our roadmap is giving employers the confidence to hire, and our brilliant Work Coaches are helping them recruit local talent.”
**Cumbria Chamber is currently running a Coronavirus 2021 Recovery Survey to further understand both current issues and how we can support businesses across the region, which can be accessed here.