Critical skills shortage: International chefs needed

Chefs added to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List

News of the addition of chefs to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List has been welcomed as a “bright light in an otherwise bleak time for the accommodation sector”.

The Accommodation Association (AAoA) has been one of the industry bodies lobbying on this issue for some time with a recent submission outlining the critical skills shortages currently being faced by the tourism accommodation sector. The two areas of critical shortage are Housekeeping and Chefs.

Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said: “Accommodation Association is very pleased to see the much-needed addition of chefs to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List.”

 “The Accommodation sector has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, losing 50 percent of its workforce at the commencement, with further reductions due to the prolonged nature of the pandemic. As we emerge from the pandemic with international borders closed, the industry is seeking to meet the fluctuations in demand, with employment a direct function of rooms sold.”

 “There is currently a critical shortage of chefs and housekeepers. The industry has been extensively advertising to permanent residents for these positions but with little success. The recognition of the importance of these roles and the addition of chefs to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List is a positive step in addressing the skills shortage and challenges currently facing the sector. We welcome the Federal Government’s support in the sustainable recovery of our industry.”

Also welcoming the federal government announcement to help partly address the chronic nationwide skills shortage were industry bodies the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) and Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) who have also pushed for the inclusion of chefs to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List in an effort to alleviate the worker crisis.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson said the addition of chefs could not have come at a better time.

“Our international borders remain closed and we cannot access the usual stream of international chefs who form a critical part of our workforce,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Hotels in regional parts of Australia hard-hit by bushfires and droughts are desperate for chefs in particular with some pub and hotel restaurants closed during the week due to the worker shortage.

“Some of our most successful hotels are currently more than 50 percent down on job applications for the same time last year.

“Our priority is always to employ Aussies first, and always will be, but international chefs add to the hospitality experience helping our businesses provide a world-best service as we move into the global COVID recovery phase. 

“There are huge financial incentives for us to hire local – and they remain. To bring in an overseas worker like a chef costs a business anything from $10,000 to $25,000 when you factor in visa fees, skills assessments, migration lawyers etc and you have to wait for three months and then repeat it all again in two or four years. It’s not something entered into lightly but the fact is many hospitality businesses have no other option.”

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson also welcomed the move.

He said: “The accommodation sector has been going through tough times with a severe shortage of front-line workers like chefs – that’s why we welcome today’s announcement by the Federal Government.

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