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BHA chief warns scheme to avert Brexit staff crisis will be too late

Plans to encourage more British people to consider a career in hospitality and tourism post-Brexit have been hampered by the government’s decision to delay introducing new technical qualifications in England for the industry until a year and a half after the anticipated end of free of movement, said the British Hospitality Association (BHA).

Ufi Ibrahim, the BHA chief executive, has written separate letters to the Immigration Minister and the Education Minister expressing her “dismay” at the decision and urging them to “reconsider this oversight.” She fears the delay will cost jobs and growth.

She points out that the BHA has already outlined a 10-year-strategy to encourage more British workers into an industry which, according to a KPMG report commissioned by the BHA, will need an additional 60,000 workers per year to power growth in addition to the 200,000 workers needed to replace churn each year. A key plank to this strategy is attracting people straight from education.

In her letter to Immigration minister Brandon Lewis, Ibrahim said, 'We are not in a position to fill these vacancies without hiring non-UK workers. 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, with the first teaching of the Catering and Hospitality T-Level starting in September 2022, a year and a half after the anticipated end of freedom of movement. I would hope that your Ministerial colleague (in Education) Anne Milton can be persuaded to reconsider this oversight.'

She continued, 'If migratory flows for workers from the EU and beyond are severely curtailed, particularly non-highly skilled routes, the hospitality industry will be forced to contract, costing jobs and economic growth. Automation is not a viable alternative in our sector.'

Speaking today Ibrahim said, '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. We have shown with our 10-year-strategy we are willing to step up to the plate but we need government encouragement.'