Local Taskforce to Find Solutions

A taskforce set up by Hastings District Council to find solutions for the hospitality industry has been welcomed by Glenn Fulcher, EIT’s Head of School - Tourism and Hospitality and the English Language Centre.

The region’s hospitality business owners and managers, along with government agencies and local authorities met to discuss a strategy to grow the industry at a workshop, “Serve the Bay”. The hui was hosted by EIT at its Hawke’s Bay’s Campus in Taradale, in conjunction with Hastings District Council, and was attended by the Mayor of Hastings Sandra Hazlehurst.

Speaking at the event, Fulcher said that while the issues facing the industry had not been solved, a conversation had been started and the taskforce was a good way to look for solutions. He said that immigration restrictions remained a concern for the industry, but EIT was also trying to promote the hospitality education opportunities available.

“These opportunities start from secondary school and go right into tertiary education. Opportunities should not just start at tertiary level, but it’s also about secondary schools encouraging students to take home economics or do a hospitality programme,” said Fulcher.

“There's a lot of good work going on in government with NZQA around vocational pathways and what that might look like in the future but that's probably another year or more at least away from them producing some meaningful change.”

Fulcher also proposed a shorter taster course for learners at EIT that would train students in all the hospitality skills from front of house to in the kitchen. He said that these learners could then go out into the industry and get work experience doing different supporting roles.

“There's a lot of positive feedback around a big training badge that they could wear that could say: ‘Serve the Bay, I’m a trainee.’ This would allow your customers to appreciate that this person is on work experience and is on a journey, so they're not going to expect too much from them initially.”

Fred Koenders, EIT’s Executive Dean, Faculty of Commerce and Technology, said there was real concern about the ability to staff tourism and hospitality premises in the Bay.

“This is a very serious problem that not only applies nationally but obviously affects us here locally in Hawke’s Bay. Mrs Hazlehurst suggested a call to action with a Taskforce led by the industry to address the shortage. It’s all of us working together and it needs to be led regionally,” explained Koenders.

“She said this model was exactly how they got 2,000 RSE workers into the region to address the horticulture shortage earlier in the year. This isn’t just a one-off meeting. We need to all support our hospitality industry.”

Koenders went on to note that while COVID has presented a number of challenges, it also has presented a lot of opportunities in terms of how to get more people engaged, particularly with the hospitality industry.

“The exciting part is that we're in boom times. As a region, we're doing really well. People are coming here, there is employment available across many sectors and our region is a top destination for New Zealand tourists,” he concluded.

“Hastings District Council has a dedicated team of Youth Connectors who have achieved getting 80 rangatahi into work and training in the past 12 months – we are doing our part to help the 3,300 people on the Job Seeker benefit in Hastings and into work such as hospitality.”