Train, retain, grow job talent

January 23, 2021
Grant Jones

Andy Lewis (left) CEO of Allara Learning.

By Grant Jones

With many club doors swinging back open and venues ready to ramp up in 2021, re-engaging staff and recruiting new employees is the key to ongoing success.

So says Andy Lewis, CEO of Allara Learning, a training provider specialising in the hospitality, retail and business sectors which offers online training services plus training campuses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville.

Allara’s clients include pub and hospitality groups but the club sector has a real opportunity to tap into the local community like no other, he says. 

While drying pools of backpackers and travellers holding work visas have hit the rest of the hospitality industry hard, getting former club staff back on board, plus new trainees, will be the main challenge especially those with skills in the food and beverage space, he says.

“Clubs need to be proactive in the space, connecting with schools and providing an opportunity – and an open door – to anyone looking to move into hospitality after finishing high school,” Lewis says.

“They have the opportunity at a grass-roots level to tap into that local talent, offering work-experience opportunities in venues that have the capacity to train at all levels – F&B, gaming, even functions and events and hospitality in general – and give students the best learnings ever to kickstart their careers.”

F&B skills, in particular, are in high demand and with state and federal governments offering training incentives for apprentices and generous subsidies for hospitality courses also in place, any club looking to train, retain or re-engage staff looking to upskill should be on the front foot. The biggest hurdle facing clubs is back-of-house skills and a lack of skilled kitchen staff,” Lewis says.

“The Government needs to look at apprenticeships, their duration of three to four years and the low wages in particular, and how that needs to change to encourage more people into the kitchen. They need to be proactive in the space because this shortage is not going to go away,” he says.

Consultant chef Paul Rifkin said training, in general, has gone by the wayside in clubs during COVID-19. He says they are unsure of what will happen with training, apprentices, keeping existing staff on Jobkeeper and re-engaging with former staff who may have been laid off and who may not be eligible for what’s left of JobKeeper.

Chef Paul Rifkin.

“Some club businesses are going gangbusters and some aren’t. Those that aren’t are saying they don’t have money for training. But the Government is paying up to 50 per cent of apprentice wage,” he says.

“Surely that’s an opportunity or maybe there are other opportunities such as mature apprenticeships for those who want to re-skill.” 

Rifkin adds that the same old issues such as food safety, labelling and costs are re-emerging while the finer details of F&B are being lost in the battle to get the product out there in a COVID-19 environment.

“Clubs don’t have functions anymore to rescue their bottom line and they haven’t adjusted their business models and cost controls to match that lack of ‘cream’ in the business, and a lot of produce costs have also gone up,” says Rifkin. 

“The days of the $10 steak when it costs you $14 wholesale can’t continue. Boards have to consider what they are trying to achieve with these old-style value meals?” 

Wages have also been allowed to get out of control because of Jobkeeper, with many clubs not even counting it into the equation. 

“The crunch has already started,” says Rifkin who counts Mounties Group (NSW), Yarraville Club (Vic) and Kingscliff Bowling Club and Burleigh Bears RL Club (Qld) among his clients.

“While it’s now easier to get staff, some of these people are not eligible for Jobkeeper and a heap of staff have fallen off already.”


Allara, Allara Learning, Burleigh Bears, food and beverage, hospitality, Jobkeeper, Jobseeker, Kingscliff Bowling Club, Mounties Group, Rifkin, Training, Yarraville Club

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