National hospitality group Australian Venue Co has an ambitious plan to recruit up to 500 workers from overseas by paying for their flights and hotel quarantine ahead of Christmas.
Australian Venue Co (AVC), which owns 170 venues across the country, announced the plan this week in preparation for a busy summer trading period in Victoria and New South Wales.
Prior to the pandemic, the company had about 4200 staff and 900 of them were working-holiday makers from abroad.
Paul Waterson, AVC chief operating officer, says the hiring spree will recruit 500 workers from Australia and overseas who will be a mixture of Australians, UK nationals and foreigners.
“We’re moving now to build our workforce out to a level that was higher than what it was prior to the pandemic,” Waterson tells SmartCompany.
To attract overseas workers, AVC will capitalise on the Australia-UK trade agreement which expanded the working holiday visa program to allow UK nationals to work in Australia for a longer period of time without having to complete farm work.
The hospitality company, which owns well-known venues from Melbourne’s Terminus Hotel to Sydney’s Cargo, will also help ‘stranded Aussies’ return to the country to work in its venues if they have hospitality experience.
AVC will pay for the flights and hotel quarantine of these new hires as well as visa costs for UK nationals.
“We estimate there’ll be about 150 chefs that we’ll bring over from the UK, and that cost to us will be about $20,000 per chef or $3 million,” Waterson says.
“We’ve had a really overwhelming response from the UK and people looking to move,” he adds.
The hospitality industry, which relies heavily on international workers, has been hard hit by the pandemic with restrictions and international border closures affecting trade and access to staff.
Waterson says the industry is in dire need of experienced workers but “they’re just not out there”.
“As a sector, we really need to look to young people looking to enter the workforce and show them why pubs are a great place to work,” he says.
AVC has developed online training materials that newly arrived workers in hotel quarantine can complete ahead of receiving training on site.
The company is even in discussions with airlines about paying for a charter flight from the UK to Australia that will exclusively seat new workers.
On top of investing in overseas workers, AVC has set up its ‘Novice Program’ to train up local workers who don’t have hospitality experience.
“One of the key skills that you need to learn in the industry is to carry three plates,” Waterson says.
“We’ve got people practising their three-plate carry at home, on the other side of a Zoom call.”