Post-election and post Brexit most of the UK seems pleased that the political furore seen towards the end of last year has quietened. And while most of the UK has settled down, a new body in Northern Ireland has emerged to combat the risk to the region’s people and skills shortages in hospitality and tourism.
The new employer network HATS (Hospitality and Tourism Skills) is chaired by Derry hotelier Ciaran O’Neill, representing hospitality and tourism operators across Northern Ireland. HATS have launched a three-year action plan to tackle the shortage of people and skills, fuelled by concerns that Brexit will compound the issue.
Putting the region’s issues into numbers HATS members anticipate that there could be as many as 30,000 vacancies across both sectors by 2024. The Northern Irish hospitality and tourism sectors are currently worth circa £1 billion to the Northern Ireland economy, employing around 65,000 people.
HATS has immediately been backed by Local Government Department, Invest NI. The collaboration brings employers in the hospitality and tourism sectors together with industry associations, government and education. Its three-year action plan will prioritise seeking to support recruitment and retaining talent.
Invest NI’s director of skills, Niall Casey, backed the initiative enthusiastically saying: “We are delighted to support the HATS network through our collaborative growth programme. By working collectively, there will be a strong focus on how best to attract, retain and engage a skilled workforce to enable our businesses to grow.
“We already know that tourism is vitally important to our local economy and we hope that this project will help the development of skills, contributing towards success within the hospitality and tourism sector.”