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Scarborough: supplying skills for the local visitor economy

The visitor economy sector continues to play a key role in the economy of the borough. Whilst Scarborough still has many structural challenges to face, it equally has a lot to offer the visitor including 45 miles of heritage coastline, the North York Moors National Park, the resorts of Filey, Whitby and Scarborough, year-round events and festivals, which celebrate the essence of the Yorkshire Coast, and a developing food and drink offer.

Issues and challenges

The make-up of the borough’s population is top heavy with a higher proportion of people over the age of 65 (23.5 per cent) compared to 18 per cent nationally, which is projected to rise to 27.7 per cent by 2021. The ageing population will impact on the pool of labour required to maintain, grow and develop the visitor economy. Whilst the borough suffers from generally lower wage rates, primarily as a result of a strong visitor economy, the differential has reduced over recent years. The borough has challenging low-skills base levels underpinned by poor performance in the education sector. The borough has a low percentage of people with Level 4+ (30.4 per cent compared to 38.6 per cent nationally) and a high level of people with no qualifications (10.3 per cent compared to 7.7 per cent nationally). The forecast of demands for employment by the new sectors, combined with replacement demand issues will place tremendous pressures on the economy. Some of the key issues facing the sector include:

  • replacement demand – indications are that job openings to replace those who retire or move on in the labour market will be greater than those arising from growth
  • staff churn is a significant issue in the accommodation sub-sector – there are clearly lots of applicants for positions but employers have a really high churn (length of time staying in a role is low) and consequently, employers are wary of employing someone with little or no experience in the job
  • identified gaps include operational IT/ digital skills – handling orders, bookings; management skills at a shift level; customer service skills; cleaning skills and all-food related skills
  • local businesses continue to face challenges in attracting and retaining talent, which is related to real and/or perceived low pay, high turnover of staff, long shifts and seasonality – the structure of the sector, particularly the fact that the sector is dominated by SMEs, means that many do not have the HR infrastructure to support workforce development.

The sector is still perceived as being low paid and seasonal, issues that prevent tourism and hospitality being seen as a career option for young people.

The local response

A wide range of provision is in place to support the development of skills in the tourism and hospitality sector. Few clear gaps in training provision were identified but this may be partly due to the financial pressures and difficulties in designing, piloting and delivering high quality training for the tourism and hospitality sector. The difficulties in striking the right balance between supply and demand are widely recognised particularly given the strong seasonal nature of the visitor economy sector in Scarborough. Visitors to the borough expect a high level of service, which in turn requires a local labour force with the right blend of skills. However, the visitor economy continues to suffer from a negative perception; low paid, part-time and seasonal, that prevents hospitality being seen as a career option for young people. Small councils such as Scarborough Borough Council have very little influence on the strategies of businesses and further education providers. The council is looking to work with partners and industry on collaborative activities to generate a pipeline of skills and talent to grow the tourism and hospitality sector. The council is also working closely with the local enterprise partnership to ensure that visitor economy skills are given priority status and support skills development projects.