A jobs drive for a hospitality sector desperately in need for more staff stepped up a gear on Tuesday with businesses pledging positions ahead of a face-to-face hiring event at Osbourne Park in early December.
With Christmas and the summer holiday season approaching hospitality venues are eager to find workers for positions at cafes, hotels and restaurants.
As part of the initiative employers can pledge a job on the new Jobs Drive website where job seekers can search for a role that suits them and their skills.
Among the first to respond was Steelers Club general manager Sharon Arrow who said she was happy to pledge up to 12 positions because hospitality workers are so hard to come by at the moment.
"We are pledging jobs today. If I can get a dozen suitable applications I will absolutely take them," Ms Arrow said.
"The problem is enormous. A lot of our casual workforce has traditionally been backpackers and students. There are no backpackers around and a lot of students are from country areas and went back home during lockdown."
Ms Arrow said the problem was compounded because not knowing when the lockdown would end meant venues didn't do much recruitment this year. She said for anyone who has ever thought about a career in hospitality now was a perfect time to get in.
"We want to over-employ now because we are gearing up for a cracking year," she said.
"We need to have these staff trained and ready to fire as soon as the events hit."
But Ms Arrow said the competition from metro venues looking for workers was fierce.
"There are so many opportunities. I know of venues in Sydney who are now offering a $600 bonus for hospitality staff who stay three months. And people will travel for that," she said.
"The shortage is everywhere. We are competing with other industries as well. There have been so many jobs in the health care industry for things like doing admin for COVID testing. The unskilled labour associated with that whole process has taken a lot of kids and they are getting up to $45 an hour. We have to sell a lot of beers before we can afford to pay that.
"We are at the point now where we are saying you don't need experience, we will train you. We just say you need your RSA, RCG and a bloody good attitude. That's all you need. We'll do the rest.
"If anybody is looking for a career or to do a few years in hospitality now is absolutely the time because let me tell you we are treating our staff like gold at the moment for fear they are going to go somewhere else. If they come and work for us they will never have had it so good."
The jobs drive program culminates in a face-to-face hiring event on the Wollongong Harbour Foreshore on December 7 where prospective employers and job seekers will be able to meet each other and discuss the roles on offer.
Ms Arrow said gaining skills in the hospitality sector was a great thing because "wherever in the world you are people want to eat, people want to drink and they want to socialise. And the life skills are invaluable".
Whitlam MP Stephen Jones and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird have both thrown their support behind the initiative which came about after Mr Jones expressed a concern that the skills shortage was becoming a big issue for the Illawarra. That sparked a series of online skills roundtable forums hosted by RDA Illawarra which led to the present jobs drive.
Mr Jones said it was fantastic to hear what the Steelers Club were willing to offer and thanked local employers, workers, local job placement services, the Regional Development Authority, TAFE NSW and Destination Sydney Surrounds South for getting behind the Jobs Drive.
"It is amazing to see business responding so quickly," he said.
"Together we can all meet the challenge of getting employment up, businesses thriving and tourists coming away from our wonderful region with smiles on their faces and a story to tell their friends and family.
"The last thing we want to see is businesses not able to open there regular hours or only having half their tables available because they don't have the staff to look after the customers.
"We are coming up to a big time of year. We want to see businesses roaring back and we want to see tourism roaring back.
"Lockdowns have been extremely tough on our hospitality sector.
"Our hope is that a bustling Christmas holiday season will kick-start a recovery for workers and employers alike. Working together to get ready for the summer rush is a great start."
Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said it was fantastic to see the community coming together to support the operators who have had it so tough over the last 18 months .
"I think it is important for young people to realise that tourism and hospitality careers have so many great benefits to them. The skills are very transferable and give you the opportunity to travel the world," he said.
"There is something there for everyone and there are great opportunities to progress and develop a career.
"And we are so grateful to Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones for taking the lead on this and understanding the importance of tourism and hospitality to our region."
Check out more information about the Jobs Drive initiative and website here.
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