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Chef shortage threatens to jeopardise UK tourism

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Despite celebrity chefs being ubiquitous, take up on cheffing courses is falling and hospitality businesses are struggling to recruit skilled chefs.

According to figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, nearly half (47 per cent) of chef vacancies are difficult to fill due to a lack of skilled applicants. Shortages are particularly bad in London, with up to 66 per cent of vacancies being hard to fill.

Added to this, according to recruitment company People 1st, 51 per cent of colleges offering full time programmes have seen a fall in numbers since last year.

The UK’s growing foodie reputation is becoming a major driver of English tourism, which is predicted to become one of the biggest sources of economic growth over the next decade.

Already worth £106bn (9 per cent of the GDP), the value of tourism is expected to double to £216bn by 2025, providing one in 10 jobs.

However, according to VisitEngland, a lack of skilled chefs does jeopardise these projections. As a result, the tourism body has called for a drive, across the industry, to encourage more young people to consider a career as a chef.

“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,” says 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.”

A number of initiatives are already underway. The British Hospitality Association is uniting more than 1,500 businesses to provide young people with careers in tourism and hospitality.

As part of last month’s English Tourism Week, restaurants, hotels and catering establishments in South Yorkshire came together to pledge job opportunities, apprenticeships and work placements for 16 to 24-year-olds.

The British Beer and Pub Association is running a Pub Chef Passion initiative, aimed at attracting thousands more talented people into the pub and bar industry. And the UK Tourism Council is leading a hospitality working group in launching new apprenticeship standards for chefs.

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Despite celebrity chefs being ubiquitous, take up on cheffing courses is falling and hospitality businesses are struggling to recruit skilled chefs.
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