Harrogate’s recruitment and self-isolation crisis: how the city is fighting back

Harrogate College Principal Danny Wild - When it comes to the city's recruiting issues, he says he's not just stepping up the college's efforts, he's open to ideas from local businesses.
Harrogate College Principal Danny Wild – When it comes to the city’s recruiting issues, he says he’s not just stepping up the college’s efforts, he’s open to ideas from local businesses.

The Harrogate College boss said the educational institution was ready to increase the supply of qualified staff to support the district’s economy, especially in the hospitality sector.

Principal Danny Wild, pictured, said the college is taking action to close the skills gap and is keen to work closely with local businesses in a flexible way to do so.

Mr. Wild said: “In recognition of the current hospitality shortages, we have contacted our own networks and the Chamber of Commerce to explain how we can provide support.

“This includes a series of new, short courses that businesses or individuals can take with us to build confidence and skills in customer service and home service.

“The main point of these courses is that we can be flexible in delivery to support businesses. “

Appointed as Director of Harrogate College in August 2019 by the Luminate Education Group, one of the North’s largest continuing education providers, Mr Wild said from the start he had a clear vision of what needs to be made to build the reputation of this place of continuing education and adult learning, whose roots go back to the 19th century.

The college principal’s enthusiasm for relevant apprenticeship programs that are good for students and employers is also known.

Regarding the city’s current recruiting issues, he says he’s not only stepping up Harrogate College’s efforts, but he’s open to ideas from local businesses.

Mr Wild said: “We recognize the great value of the hotel industry in Harrogate and North Yorkshire and are fully committed to developing a highly skilled workforce that supports businesses. We have increased our business engagement team and learning assessor workforce to meet demand.

“If companies want help with referrals from our own students for causal work or something more formal like the learning programs above, we can do that.

“The most important message is that we want to make companies understand that our role is to support the community and if there is anything they need when it comes to training or accessing students for positions, please contact us. “

Harrogate College’s approach has been well received by the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, which is keen to help businesses and their personnel issues.

David Simister, Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber, said: “Speaking with members of the Chamber, especially those in the hospitality industry, recruiting at all levels is proving to be a real challenge.

“There are a number of factors, and a major obstacle is the salary. British workers avoided low-paying jobs, and those positions were filled by workers from the EU. However, many returned home at the start of Brexit and did not return.

“I recently met the principal of Harrogate College, Danny Wild, and we had a detailed discussion on this very topic, which is not unique to our city or district. Companies working in partnership with education providers who can offer the necessary skills and courses are one way to overcome this problem.

“There are a number of companies that offer great career opportunities, and as someone who has been fortunate enough to have completed two apprenticeships, I would like to see that number increase.

“But to do it often requires incentives, and this is where government, local, regional and national, needs to step in.

Harrogate Borough Council says it has already prepared for the pitfalls of a post-Covid world with its own economic recovery plan for the district, officially known as the ‘Covid-19 Economic Recovery Framework’.

Trevor Watson, Director of Economics, Environment and Housing at Harrogate Borough Council, said: “We continue to face the challenge that if any of the staff receives a notification from the NHS app Test and Trace to isolate himself, he has to do it.

“For many of us this is not a problem because we can work from home but for the staff of our leisure center in the public swimming pools it is not possible and unfortunately has an inevitable impact on the services that we provide.

“But we are doing what we can to recruit staff and get back to normal as soon as possible.

“We have a number of goals to support employment, including working with businesses to ensure they can access the people and skills they need to grow and succeed. “

The Harrogate Borough Council action plan includes:

Invest in council-owned business premises at Conyngham Hall in Knaresborough and Phoenix Business Park in Ripon to support business growth.

Established a digital incubator center at Springfield House with office, event and meeting space, business support center, one-on-one business advice and business workshops.

Encourage investors and businesses outside the district to “Think of Harrogate” as a great place to work, invest and do business

Mr. Watson added: “Through our focused efforts and working with businesses and organizations, we aim to ensure that the District of Harrogate survives, recovers and thrives in a sustainable manner. “

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