Venue operators all over Australia are concerned about staffing; whether it’s poaching, staff shortages or skills shortages there are real concerns around what the hospitality will look like as we emerge from the pandemic.

And this is what we need to start thinking about. Yes, there are the immediate concerns of how do we keep good people in hospitality and not lose them to other sectors, but beyond that there does need to be a focus on who will be filling the job vacancies across the industry, especially in the time between when venues are reopened and when international travellers start coming back to Australia.

It’s something that Jeffrey Williams and the team at Barcats have been looking at and working on since the pandemic started and the industry was hit with skilled labour returning to their home countries and international backpackers no longer being allowed to come to Australia.

“That prompted us to do two things, first training; that was going to be absolutely key. Both in terms of getting mature-age people back into the workforce and training younger people for their first job in hospitality,” Williams told The Shout.

“We did a lot of work with Virgin and Qantas when they were standing their team down to train them in hospitality, so helping them with getting RSAs up to spec and also providing a job-ready course. Then through that we’ve been piloting a program with the Department of Education, Skill and Employment focusing on mature age and unemployed, and we’ve successfully run that in Queensland and New South Wales.

“That then leads you down the path of what we need to talk to venues about, and that’s where your full-time chef or barista job, could actually become two part-time jobs. Getting 50-year-old to stand on their feet for eight hours a day, five days a week is tough, so how do we break that job down into a two or three person job?”

“By thinking differently about who can do what and getting a bit more imaginative about how they approach the problem is key and we have been speaking to both sides about that.”

And that shift to bringing in more mature workers, more true casual workers is going to bring with it a shift in the makeup of hospitality staff.

Williams said: “What we’ve seen with these lockdowns is venues saying I can’t bring you on as a full-time staff member, I need more guarantees to be able to switch off and on really quickly. So I need a true casual and then I can gear up and gear down really quickly.

“That’s going to make it easier for people to be taking three or even four jobs so they get the 40 hours a week they want and need, just at different places.

“That’s going to see the ideal employee change because of that casualisation of the workforce. Mum or dad drops the kids off at school and so they are the perfect employee between nine and three and so venues should be thinking about creating roles and environments for those people.

“I think with the different times, the people who can move quicker and be more imaginative about what the industry looks like will benefit from the influx of people coming and that’s really exciting.”

Williams also explained that with the industry having taken a few hits with COVID, but also with some Fair Work rulings about paying correctly, confidence in the industry is dropping among younger workers and so they are being lost to other industry. As a result Barcats has again created training programs that will give younger workers the skills they need to be able to go into any venue and say with confidence, “I can do this, this and this” and therefore make it more likely they will be hired.

As well as talking to employees and venues, Williams said Barcats has been working with a number of groups to try and bring more support from the Government.

It’s very easy to think that support should be financial, but when you start looking more long-term there has to be more support in enabling businesses to do business, reducing red tape and also allowing people to stay and work longer.

“We’re calling on the Government to do a lot more work on visas and give people confidence that this is the place the can work, they can set themselves up, do more training and they are going to be allowed to stay. It’s crazy that we’ve been dragging our feet in this sort of space,” he told The Shout.

“Cutting red tape is what is really going to help business, it is 100 per cent what the Government should be focusing on to make it easier. For instance superannuation is going up half a per cent this year and then again next year. So payrolls are going up, but venues are not earning any more. They should be saying to the hospitality industry, this doesn’t fit your industry right now, we’re going to put a holiday in place for two years before this rolls out.

“Also we need to incentivise pensioners to come back to work, so why not say whatever income you earn once you’re past 55 doesn’t get taxed. That’s happening in New Zealand now and it’s a great idea. People who would otherwise just take a pension, are thinking it’s actually worthwhile me going back to work and working a few more years. And then businesses have got some great mentors for the younger workers come through as well and you’ve got this really interesting balance and dynamic within your workforce.”

Barcats recently completed a successful round of capital raising, which is helping the company to expand and meet the changing needs of Australia’s hospitality industry, and increase the amount of training it is offering across the workforce. To find out how the company can help either you with work (they currently have over 700 jobs available) or your venue, head to the Barcats website.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of TheShout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both TheShout and Bars and Clubs.

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