Visitor and Cultural Economy Task Group

The Visitor and Cultural Economy Task Group comprises employers and education professionals from organisations such as:

  • De La Warr Pavilion
  • University of Brighton
  • The View Hotel
  • East Sussex College Group
  • The Beacon

There are huge challenges in East Sussex related to recruitment and skills in this sector. Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown the task group was addressing the severe lack of chefs and hospitality managers in the county. It was also looking at the wider skills shortage in the sector.

Post lockdowns, external challenges include rising costs for businesses and customers.  The group are exploring innovative ways of recruitment and getting the right skills at the right time. 

Julie Barker
Julie Barker

Chair of Visitor and Cultural Economy Task Group, Julie Barker, MIoD, FIH, PGcert

Julie has a breadth of experience at Board and Chair level from her 30-year award-winning career within the hospitality industry. Julie is a specialist in stakeholder engagement. She has direct experience of leading large multi-disciplinary teams and interfacing with complex client bodies, national and regional organisations and institutions. Julie is a qualified chef and a ‘total foodie’. She is a tenacious and passionate advocate of the industry and aims to encourage new talent to choose the hospitality industry as a ‘career of choice’. Julie is an independent consultant specialising in public and third sector service delivery, working on a consultancy, non-executive director (NED) and interim leadership basis.

Task group activities in recent years

In 2019-2021 the task group undertook the following activity:

  • Certain task group members helped to establish the View Hotel in Eastbourne as a 'Hotel of Excellence'. The View will provide long-term placements for students at the University of Brighton. They will also provide five 50-day placements for East Sussex College group students as part of their new T-level provision.
  • In November 2019, students and staff from the University of Brighton ran an Open Doors (workplace visit) session at the View Hotel. The secondary school pupils completed work-related tasks. Some pupils enjoyed it so much that they want to find out more about careers in the sector.
  • In March 2020 some members of the task group met online with their counterparts from Kent. Colleagues shared good practice and planned a joint conference to encourage more employers to join the Task Group. These collaborative and strategic forums that will help the sector address the many challenges it is facing.
  • The meeting on 20 January 2021 was held during the sector's lowest ebb. All hospitality venues, apart from those doing take away food, had closed due to the lockdown. Despite this, a good number of members, including employers attended the meeting.
  • The discussion reflected the low mood with several industries within hospitality. These include event planners, weddings, and hotels. They reported a lack of adequate support for their businesses.
  • Several members expressed concern about the possible skills shortage when premises re-open. This could be made worse by the effect of Brexit. The sector has provided a lot of work to European Union (EU) nationals who may not come to the UK because of the new rules. Thousands of language students who bring several million pounds to the local economy also did not come in 2021-22.
  • There is concern that more hospitality courses in university are being withdrawn because of the negative effects of lockdown upon the sector

Task group update Spring/Summer 2023

  • The Task Group has welcomed new members, including those from the Eastbourne  Hospitality Association and interested councillors.
  • An Hospitality Roundtable event was held at the De La Warr Pavilion in February 2022, jointly hosted by East Sussex and Rother District Council.
  • In Session 1, employers were asked to work in groups with stakeholders to review the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to work at various levels within the hospitality sector. A key output from this session was the need for employers to help develop ‘soft skills’, especially given that many young people lost opportunities to develop these at a key stage in life during the Covid pandemic. 
  • Session 2 focused on how employers could link in with the education sector to develop robust, short, medium and long term recruitment strategies. This included hospitality having a presence at career and recruitment events to raise interest in the sector as an employer. There were presentations from East Sussex Careers Hub, East Sussex College Group and Bexhill College.
  • Session 3 focused on how employers could link with organisations that directly work with unemployed adults, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Job Centre Plus (JCP) and REED in Partnership who deliver the RESTART scheme for unemployed individuals aged 19 years and over.
  • The final session gave a recap and encouraged attendance at upcoming jobs fairs. Both chair, Julie Barker and the DWP have noticed a lack of hospitality representation at career and job fairs.  
  • The sector's participation would be helped by having more such events on Mondays. As well as hoteliers, retail and restaurants, visitor attractions need to be seen, too from theatres and cinemas to museums and galleries.
  • Sally Staples, the Cultural Strategy Manager for East Sussex, reported that the sector is hoping to see a steeper recovery than the economic crisis in 2008.  Sussex Modern has been part of a consortium of funding to Visit Essex, Visit Kent and Sussex Modern for marketing and promotion of the area. Sussex Modern aims to target the niche brand of long-staying, high spending tourists through promotion of local viticulture and culture venues. Visit Kent are bringing in an external company to manage customer sentiment tracking for the sector.
  • For the East Sussex Careers Campaign the task group agreed to promote the following roles: Chef, Hotel and restaurant managers
  • The job role videos for chef and event manager can be found on the Careers East Susses local industry pages for the sector. 

Visitor Economy Task Group meetings

Please find below the minutes of recent task group meetings.

Contact Skills East Sussex  if you are a sector employer, training or education provider and want details. Other than your time, and occasional travel, there are no costs to joining Skills East Sussex meetings.  

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