Penrith faces chef shortage as border closures impact hospitality industry

Owners of High St Depot Noreen and Tim Bryan. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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The old saying ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ doesn’t appear to be the case in Penrith, with local hospitality venues struggling with staff shortages.

Tourism Accommodation Australia NSW CEO, Michael Johnson, said post-COVID hospitality recovery in regions across the state, including Penrith, is being held back by chronic staff shortages.

“Our first intent is always to employ Australians, but we have always had a chef labour shortage, so it has been supported by working holiday makers and international students,” he said.

“JobKeeper did not extend to any internationals, so we had huge droves of people leaving the country and now we are feeling a massive shortage of chefs but also frontline food and beverage staff.”

The Government announcing in the Federal Budget last week that the fortnightly limit of 40 hours of work for international student visa holders with jobs in hospitality will be temporarily lifted has been praised by industry leaders, but Mr Johnson said more needs to be done.

“Prior to COVID we had 140,000 working holiday makers and now we have 25,000, so our first international arrivals need to be students and workers who can quarantine and then be out in the workforce long-term,” he said.

“The unemployment rate is just over five per cent but there are plenty of jobs in hospitality, so we need to be encouraging people who need jobs to get trained and to try it out.”

Owners of High St Depot, Tim and Noreen Bryan, said trying to find chefs for the hard but rewarding industry has always been a struggle.

“The talent we have found in Penrith has been great but there aren’t as many people getting into it as it’s not as sugar coated as ‘MasterChef’. It is hard work, long hours and you have to be on the ball,” Ms Bryan said.

“A lot of local places have also opened up recently needing staff ,so you could say it is spreading the butter really thin, adding to the issues we already had.”

Head of Tourism and Experience Service Skills Team at TAFE NSW, Marion Fitzpatrick, said TAFE NSW is focused on giving graduates skills to hit the ground running for employers.

“For jobseekers, TAFE NSW also offers a range of low cost and fee-free short courses through JobTrainer, such as the Statement of Attainment in Hospitality 2 available at TAFE NSW Kingswood,” she said.

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