Industry incentives to attract hospitality service staff

December 17, 2020
By Melissa Parker

As restrictions ease, venues open up and borders remained closed, huge job opportunities have emerged in the Australian hospitality sector and leading into the busiest time of the year they can’t be filled fast enough.

Australia is achieving COVID-normal, and we can now enjoy a meal out, or a drink at a bar but operators are finding it tough to find experienced staff. 

COVID-19 has dealt a harsh blow to the hospitality sector, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney due to harsh and extended lockdowns and restricted operations in on-premise.

Hospitality workers found themselves without work, so either went home, left the industry or relied on JobKeeper payments to pay the bills.

As the tables turned and we successfully achieved COVID-normal the situation in hospitality also changed rapidly, and the staffing situation has struggled to keep step.

The sector now finds itself experiencing a staff shortfall and is desperate to fill thousands of positions in the absence of overseas backpackers, international students and 457 visa holders it leaned on in the past.

If you are entry-level bar wait or gaming staff, front of house or kitchen staff then things are looking good. Chefs are also in hot demand.

“We were shut down for 10 weeks, and when we re-opened we had restrictions in the on-trade and so hospitality workers walked away from the industry, took other jobs or are still on JobKeeper, those are the reasons we are struggling to fill these positions,” explained John Green, Director of Liquor and Policing, Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW.

The AHA NSW conducted a brief survey of 200 members two months ago, revealing a shortfall of over 1000 staff among the operations of the members surveyed. The Association is in full support of encouraging young people to take advantage of the jobs in hospitality and says Pub Jobs is the go-to site for hospitality jobs in the state.

The New South Wales State Government recently announced its next step in easing of restrictions in the on-premise moving to one person per two square metres, immediately creating more than 9,000 jobs in pubs across the state.

It also announced the Regional Gap Year campaign encouraging school leavers to head to the bush and fill the hospitality and fruit-picking jobs left vacant by overseas backpackers. Launched yesterday by Deputy Premier, John Barilaro and Minister for Regional Youth, Bronnie Taylor, the campaign encourages 18 to 24-year-olds who have missed out on planned travel because of border closures to explore their local backyard.

“We want to remind young people that a Regional NSW Gap Year is a chance for career development and adventure and with thousands of jobs, there’s something for everyone, from fruit picking in Armidale to pulling a beer in Ballina, to taking tours in Tamworth,” Mr Barilaro said.

Meanwhile, The Australian Venue Co, with more than 150 bars around Australia, is tackling the issue by offering sign-on bonuses up to $1000 to attract skilled workers but also encourage non-experienced people into the industry.

Paul Waterson, CEO, Australian Venue Co said: “Our goal is to try and bring new people into the industry and invest in people who don’t have a lot of hospitality experience because when you look on job boards such as Bartender Exchange everyone is advertising for two or more years’ experience and the reality is they are just not out there.”

“Someone has to invest in bringing new people back into the industry and training them up because we are not going to have holiday visa workers for probably over 18 months and that’s why we came up with this structure.

“We have been inundated with applications of people from the ages of 18 to 24 who want to get a foothold in the industry. The myth young people don’t want to work is wrong. The response has been wonderful,” Mr Waterson said.

Mr Waterson says the staff shortage issue is a positive story.

“Of all the problems we have had this year, having full pubs again is not one of them,” he said.

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