WITH the holiday season almost upon us and the next few months being the time when the hospitality industry on the Mid North Coast traditionally makes a large percentage of its annual income, businesses are facing critical challenges in attracting staff.
The hospitality industry had a tough start to 2020 as bushfires impacted the region and tourist numbers decreased.
Then COVID-19 arrived, further restricting service and forcing many business owners to scale down operations.
Now, as business is scaling up again across the region, the multiple impacts are being felt particularly as the industry grapples to find applicants for jobs.
"It's been busy at Bent on Food since we re-opened for dine in on June 1, but it's so hard to find staff at the moment. We are not getting applications when we advertise," the Wingham cafe owner Donna Carrier said.
"We have a great opportunity to showcase our region, but we need help to ensure operators and existing staff don't burn out and that our service levels are efficient."
COVID-safe procedures also come at a cost, taking staff away from normal service duties. To service visitors in a professional manner the industry is in need of skilled hospitality staff.
Even larger organisations like clubs and pubs that have designated human resources staff are finding it hard to attract staff - some have reported less than 10 applicants for advertised positions that in previous years have had over 100.
Numerous strategies are rolling out across the region to address the staff gaps.
Among these is the digital platform designed by Regional Development Australia Mid North Coast called My Future Workforce.
"We understand the recruitment process can be difficult and expensive for small employers," Regional Development Australia Mid North Coast CEO Kerry Grace said.
"We designed My Future Workforce to make job advertising, and job finding easier for all parties in our regional communities and it's a free service that's different to national or commercial services as it's been designed by our local employers and for our local employers."
Another initiative is the Summer Skills - Free Skills Training for 2020 launched by the NSW Department of Education.
The program invites Year 12 school leavers to attend short courses that include participation in safe food handling practice, provide responsible gambling services, provide responsible service of alcohol and use hygienic practices for food safety - all of which have being mentioned by employers as desirable when they look to hire for the coming season.
Apart from providing Year 12 school leavers with an opportunity to be exposed to new skills and potential career pathways, this training can assist participants transition to work either fulltime, part time or casual. A variety of training providers are delivering these skill sets throughout the region.