The importance of encouraging people to work in Cumbria’s vital hospitality sector has been highlighted to the secretary of state for education Gillian Keegan.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron and Cumbria Tourism’s head of partnerships and projects, Rachel Tyson, met with the minister to discuss the need to address the staffing crisis in the tourism industry – specifically the urgency of a long-awaited industry qualification which could make a significant long-term impact. 

This is the second time the qualification, which had been expected to be a catering and hospitality T-level, has been delayed.

The meeting follows new Cumbria Tourism research which reveals that staffing issues continue to be a major issue for Cumbria’s tourism businesses.

It found that 79 per cent of businesses say recruitment of staff is a problem, while a lack of staff is limiting business capacity for almost 63 per cent of businesses.

Cumbria Tourism’s Autumn Business Performance Survey was carried out in conjunction with Lamont Pridmore and gives an in depth, real time update on the county’s visitor economy.

Speaking after the meeting, Tim Farron said: “I’m really grateful to the secretary of state for listening to the challenges that businesses in Cumbria are facing when it comes to the recruitment and retention of staff.

"There needs to be a huge push from the government to invest in skills and training.

"They also need to work with employers to help make hospitality and tourism an exciting long-term career plan for young people.”

Rachel Tyson, head of partnerships and projects at Cumbria Tourism added: “With the visitor economy being such a key industry in Cumbria, it is vital that we can build the talent pipeline required so that businesses can thrive.

"Having the right qualifications is an essential part of building interest in careers within the sector.

"CT have recently created a Tourism Talent Hub to showcase the breadth of careers and opportunities available in the industry and the T-level in hospitality would be a key route into careers in the visitor economy and a stepping stone onto higher level apprenticeships.

"We are grateful that Tim Farron MP managed to secure the meeting with the secretary of state for education and we will continue to feed into the conversations with the Department for Education.”

Earlier this year, Mr Farron, Kendal College and Cumbria Tourism joined a range of organisations in hosting a successful Jobs and Careers Fair in Kendal, which saw more than 800 people attending the event to meet 60-plus potential employers from a range of industries across the county.

Last week, Cumbria Tourism also held a Visitor Economy Skills ‘roundtable’ meeting at Kendal College, as part of its ongoing activity around the Local Skills Improvement Plan.

The discussion centred on current skills and recruitment, as well as the practical ways the college can support tourism-related businesses and inspire young people.