Raising the Skill Requirements for Chefs: The Final Hurdle

Posted on In Focus Mar 2011 - by Tandoori Magazine
Raising the Skill Requirements for Chefs: The Final Hurdle

How will raising the skill requirements for chefs affect restaurants in the future? Maria Fernandes looks at what's in store.

In November 2010 the Government announced its intentions to raise the minimum skill level for jobs under Tier 2 (work permits). The Government then asked the Migration Advisory Committee (an independent body set up to advise on migrant trends) to advise on two questions:

a) Which codes should be considered for graduate level occupations?
b) How should current shortage occupation lists be revised to remove jobs below graduate level?

Until now the shortage list has included skills at NVQ level 3. The new regulations will require jobs to be skilled to the higher NVQ level 4. This involves competence, application of knowledge in a broad range of complex, technical, or professional work activities performed in a variety of contexts and with a substan-tial degree of personal responsibility and autonomy. It includes responsibility for the work of others.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is required to report to the Government by February 2011 on these issues. In order to prepare the benchmarks that could be used to identify these jobs, there was a call for evidence with the deadline set at 21st January 2011. The deadline has now passed. A number of organi-sations gave evidence in support of this issue. The essential point that was made in the course of the evidence was that the local high street in all areas of Britain have improved their cuisine immeasurably as a result of the ability to recruit skilled chefs from abroad.

As a result all of Britain, not just a select group based in central London, can enjoy good quality and affordable food in local areas. When considering factors to include into the definition this aspect is highly relevant. Restricting chefs to fine dining establish-ments would reverse the trend of regenerating local areas by providing equally good facilities for those communities.

MAC has in the past vigorously challenged the hospitality industry to provide evidence of the continual need for chefs to be on the shortage list. As the result of the evidence (and they are an evidence-based organisation) that they have received, have continued to accept that this is an industry which suffers from an acute shortage. MAC, however, indicated that there must be a strict provision that the industry itself will get its act together by making an attempt to train and recruit local staff in the immediate and long term.

As part of this the government must also work hand in hand with the industry to ensure that it invests in schemes that will have this impact.
The matter is now out of the hands of the restaurateurs and into the hands of the government. The outcome will determine the future of the growth of the industry.

What is clear is that the number of chefs will be drastically reduced. The reason given for this is outlined by the Immigration Minister Damien Greene: "The reality is that the catering sector like all others is going to have to reduce its reliance on migrant workers as they have done nothing to help the millions of unemployed or low skilled British citizens."

Is this true? The ethnic (Asian) industry currently employs over 100,000 people and produces a combined turnover of £4 billion. This excludes the benefit of the interdependent suppliers to the industry. Indian restaurants have grown in response to demand by the public. Undoubtedly the bigger restaurants and hotels will still be able to bring in staff and high-end restaurants will still manage to conduct their business.

The setting of limits by the government has been controversial and all industries without exception have expressed concern. The raising of qualifications, will disproportionately affect the restaurant industry because it relies on skill not qualifications and this often includes innate ability. The result may change the landscape of Asian restaurants in future years.

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