Hospitality skills shortages are at crisis level according to Hospitality New Zealand.

Chief Executive Julie White says the government’s announcement to extend Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment work visas by six months is a welcome move but will not address the severe shortage of skilled workers.

She says difficulties finding staff are severely hampering the industry’s recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

“Skills shortages are the industry’s major stressor right now, and we’re finding ourselves at what can only be described as a crisis level,” says White.

“Businesses need their existing essential workers to stay, so this is a positive move that will help the sector get back on its feet for now, but for the longer term they need skilled workers and the only way to do that is to bring them in as the borders open.

“The industry is working hard on find long-term solutions via specialised industry-led training programmes but they will take time to have an effect.

“We need something now that’s going to give businesses the skills they need to operate now, and migrants are the answer, but we’ve been hard pressed to convince the Government of this.”

White says prior to COVID-19, migrant workers filled a critical gap, but access to them has been turned off while the borders have been closed.

“You can’t just turn off that tap and expect the industry to find skilled Kiwis to replace them, because there just aren’t any,” she says.

“Making it harder or more expensive to employ migrant workers, as the Government is talking about, will not create more hospitality jobs for Kiwis.

“The vast majority of jobs that go to migrant workers are ones Kiwis don’t want or aren’t qualified for.

“Without these migrant workers, hospitality is suffering significantly.”

White says the Government needs to pause the increase in the median wage to give businesses breathing space as they tackle these challenges.

“Then it needs to review hospitality roles on MSD’s over-supply list so we can get access to migrants we need, it needs to provide financial support for [online training], and it needs to look at reasonable transition times away from migrant labour.”

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