A new training initiative at one of the country’s top international hotels may provide a model to address the chronic industry labour shortage threatening the tourism industry.

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Hilton Lake Taupo have launched a new programme which will see MSD candidates and school leavers develop the fundamental hospitality skills required for a career – within the global luxury hotel industry.

Industry experts say the shortage of staff within the tourism and hospitality industries is at crisis point and has threatened to impact the image of New Zealand amongst overseas visitors.

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The new in-house basic hospitality service course will see students trained in grooming and presentation, making a bed to an international Hilton standard, general housekeeping, cocktail and barista skills, waiting tables, food and beverage preparation, porter and luggage service.

Tracey Poole, Hilton Taupo hotel manager, said all graduates receive the internationally recognised Hilton Hotel service certification following completion of the two-week course.

Poole said the pilot programme is a first for Hilton Hotels New Zealand.

“The ongoing skills shortage in the tourism sector is the most significant challenge faced by the industry on its way to a post-pandemic recovery. It has forced us to look at non-traditional sources of labour to fill the gap left by overseas workers on holiday visas.

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“Our collaboration with MSD is designed to provide us with an additional quota of staff over the next 12 months – which will support us in bridging the shortfall that we have across at our Taupo property.

“At the same time, we recognise this as a positive community initiative and one that will provide a potentially international career path for many people that have been out of work for some time.”

Poole noted that the initial success of the trial programme has exceeded their expectations, adding that participants so far from the MSD register have included school leavers and young parents with small children who are looking to re-enter the workforce on a part time basis.

“A recent candidate made such a stellar impression she had managers across three of our departments; housekeeping, food & beverage and front of house all wanting to secure her for their team. During the course she discovered she had a passion for working in food service and elected to stay on as part of our F&B team.

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“As a globally recognised Hilton Hotel and conference venue, we understand this new model may not only provide opportunities for trainees but also potentially provide a mechanism for other operators in the tourism and hospitality sector to recruit new workers.”

Poole said with the arrival of international tourists, accommodation bookings at the hotel are already reaching capacity and the new staff intake could not come at a better time.

MSD’s Bay of Plenty regional commissioner, Mike Bryant, says the Hilton Lake Taupo team are to be commended for their approach.

“They’re prepared to give people – those they may not have employed in the past – a chance. We’ve been working hard to connect people back to work – to give them goals and aspirations for the future. We’re very excited about this partnership.”

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