Business

Got Skills?

OLIVIA MONAGHAN

May 31, 2012

Australia is suffering a skills shortage in the hospitality industry due to rising living costs in its capital cities that are forcing employers to look overseas for workers.

Manager of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management at Polytechnic West Bernhard Staggl said low pay and difficult work conditions contributed to the shortage.

“Perth has become a very expensive place to live, so even people who love our industry and want to work in our industry can’t afford to live on the wage without night and weekend allowances,” Mr Staggl said.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ 2011 Skill Shortages Summary lists Western Australia among the states finding recruitment most difficult.

Hospitality employers filled less than 60 per cent of vacancies in 2011.

CEO of recruitment company Hospitalitybiz Rory Cole-Bowen said the mining boom created a high demand for workers.

“This movement to the mines has left a void in hospitality roles which are becoming more difficult to fill as they pay less than other industries,” Mr Cole-Bowen said.

“A lot of young people get used to earning these large salaries and then are reluctant to return to hospitality jobs, which are notoriously lower paid, once they finish the fly in fly out lifestyle.”

Mr Staggl agrees that keeping people in the industry is a challenge.

“Food is art,” he said.

“It is colourful and interesting, so the problem is not getting people into the industry to do a course.

“The problem is keeping them.”

Mr Staggl said a lot of students came to Polytechnic West because they loved food and traveling.

“As a chef you can travel the world,” he said.

“I’ve travelled the world three times and lived in 11 countries, but sometimes it is a demanding industry and people decide it’s too hard.”

Many businesses are paying up to $4000 to sponsor overseas workers to fill the void left by skills shortages.

Venue manager Kristy Ovens has sponsored four staff at The Inglewood Hotel and sees it as an investment.

“The advantage of sponsoring workers is stability,” Ms Ovens said.

“They benefit the business because they add personality, experience, and are more industry orientated.”

Sponsored Head Chef Martin Lawley wants to stay in Perth despite the high cost of living.

“To compare [my home city of] London to Perth, from my point of view there is nicer weather and beaches, lower crime rate, better pay,” Mr Lawley said.

“Why wouldn’t I want to stay here?

“It’s a great place to live, with the best quality of life.”

Mr Cole-Bowen said sponsored workers brought the best parts of their own culture like their food styles and cuisines.

Hospitality trade union United Voice was contacted for comment.

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