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Recruitment scheme Westminster Works launched in London to tackle hospitality staffing crisis and speed up training

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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A new recruitment scheme has been developed for the central London borough of Westminster, to address the growing number of staff shortages in its hospitality and leisure industry.

The Westminster Works initiative hopes to take a novel approach to rapid recruitment by scrapping CVs in favour of on-the-job trials and accelerated training.

It aims to fill more than 2,200 roles in the borough’s hotels, restaurants, bars, cafés, clubs, casinos and other eligible venues by 2024.

Renowned as London’s hub for entertainment, Westminster is home to around 3,700 restaurants, bars and cafés and 4,000 leisure businesses, providing 120,000 jobs.

Funded by Westminster City Council and backed by the Mayor of London, the scheme has been created in partnership with recruitment and training agency Step Ahead, business management consultancy New West End Company, investment firm Knightsbridge Partnership, Step Ahead Recruitment, and high street planning company AttisTowns.

It has also been devised with the help of more than 100 hospitality and leisure industry leaders working in the borough.

The launch of Westminster Works comes as the number of vacancies in these sectors has risen to almost 100,000 since before the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “This timely scheme will help employers overcome staff shortages, find thousands of job opportunities, while at the same time setting the high standard for workers’ rights. It’s good for business, good for workers, and good for Westminster.”

All participating employers in the free initiative will also be required to sign the Westminster Works Good Employer Pledge, whereby they must agree to improving the job conditions and prospects of sector workers.

Employer commitments include a guarantee that they will pay workers at least the London Living Wage (£11.95 per hour), respond to employees’ issues, prioritise diversity and inclusion, and adapt working practices when specifically needed.

The pledge also asks employers to offer more flexible working hours and better life-work balance, pay a salary that reflects job importance and give additional benefits and support to enable career progression.

Businesses will receive training and support to ensure they carry out these commitments.

All businesses that sign up to Westminster Works will have their vacancies promoted for free. The service also aims to attract potential employees who aren’t actively being recruited such as, parents, carers, early retirees, people with learning difficulties and ex-offenders.

Geoff Barraclough, Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development at Westminster City Council, said: “This will be a win-win for both businesses and workers, and we hope that Westminster Works becomes a model for similar schemes across the entire country to help the hospitality and leisure industry get back on its feet.”

Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO of UKHospitality, added: “The number of job vacancies in the hospitality sector has reached record highs and this scheme could not come soon enough for those dedicated and hard-working businesses that have been poleaxed by Covid, both during the restrictions caused by the pandemic and the after-effects as they try to recover.

“Workers will be afforded better working and employment conditions under this scheme, which is increasingly important in the current cost of living crisis.”

As hospitality staff shortages increase in the UK, the sector is looking for ways to improve skills training. Earlier this month, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education launched a call out for employers in catering and hospitality sectors to contribute to its major review of skills being taught through apprenticeships, so as to ensure staff are engaged and encouraged to stay on in their jobs.

Labour shortages are growing across the UK food sector. Find out what’s causing them, and how the problem might be solved in this Food Matters Live Podcast episode:

How can the UK food sector solve its labour shortage?


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