Chef shortage hurts Capes

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Settlers Tavern owner Rob Gough says changes to visa requirements were threatening the hospitality sector.
Camera IconSettlers Tavern owner Rob Gough says changes to visa requirements were threatening the hospitality sector.

The Capes region is still struggling with a new immigration regime making it hard to attract top-quality staff for the hospitality sector.

The shortage has been blamed on a Federal Government crackdown on category 457 immigration visas, a lack of incentives for restaurant owners to take on apprentices, and State Government changes to the list that fast-tracked overseas workers to WA.

Vasse MLA and Opposition tourism spokeswoman Libby Mettam tore into Labor for the shortages she blamed on the removal of hospitality jobs from the State skills list, which she said needed an urgent rethink.

“Their decision is hurting international student numbers and punishing the hospitality sector in particular,” she said.

“New figures from the Department of Jobs and Small Business indicate that only two in every five chef vacancies have been filled, a shortage which can be attributed to a lack of graduates caused by the McGowan Government’s changes to the skilled migration list.”

Settlers Tavern owner Rob Gough and his human resources manager Louise Sheridan said changes to the old 457 visa process were partly unworkable.

They told the Times a non-refundable $3000 up-front fee and stipulations around advertising made it difficult to recruit workers.

“There have been changes to that program that have affected the industry and made it more challenging for us as a hospitality business,” Mr Gough said.

Forced national advertising meant recruits were coming from abroad, and a Skype interview wasn’t adequate to judge a potential employee, Ms Sheridan said.

“In the regional areas, there is not the depth of skilled workers we require,” she said.

“You need to see who you’re employing.”

Mr Gough said the long-term viability of the business was threatened by the new rules.

Last year, when the issue first reared its head, Wills Domain owner Darren Haunold recounted similar frustrations.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia agreed there was an “issue of attracting and retaining skilled staff in the hospitality industry, particularly chefs”, and said he would raise the matter with Cabinet ministers urgently.

Mr Papalia said Tourism WA was working with Hospitality Group Training on a two-year program encouraging high school students to consider commercial cookery and hospitality as a career choice.

Ms Mettam said the response was not urgent enough.

“Restaurant owners are telling me hospitality graduates are leaving Australia in droves to return to their own country or somewhere else, such as Canada or New Zealand, where there are opportunities for sponsorship and a pathway to permanent residency,” she said.

“We should be encouraging our chefs to broaden their experience overseas and for overseas chefs to come here and enrich our sector.”

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