Fast-food chain KFC has pledged that a third of all its new staff by 2030 will be young people who have faced barriers to employment.
The chain’s boss said it wants to help improve social mobility by giving disadvantaged young people more opportunities to work, build skills and confidence, and become managers.
Through its Hatch employability programme, launched with charity UK Youth, KFC hopes to help 6,000 young people aged 16-24 get their first job – whether they have faced social, economic, domestic or mental health challenges.
Hatch will provide training and practical work experience, followed by an interview with KFC after graduating from the programme – meaning there is no guaranteed job at the end.
She told PA: “We need to unlock the potential of young people across the UK, and the skills shortage in the economy and the hospitality industry has only sharpened our focus on this.
“But skills shortage or not, businesses of our scale and reach across the UK need to see investing in young people’s skills as an opportunity, not a chore or cost.
“We urgently need it be easier for businesses, like ours, to invest in the next generation.
“We need policy to be designed around the skills young people and businesses need, and the investment to make this a reality – not just in tech firms, but also in the hospitality and retail industries which create the bulk of Britain’s private sector jobs.”
Ms Farren said that KFC is one of the biggest youth employers in the country, with almost two thirds of its workforce made up of under-25s, so it knows “all too well” the challenges and inequalities that young people face.
“In very few industries would you find 23-year-olds running a million pound business and managing teams of 40 people”, she said.
“But the value of roles in hospitality are all too often overlooked and undervalued in society.”
The boss urged the Government to increase investment into training young people to make it easier for businesses to hire and tackle labour shortages.
Policies could include tax incentives for businesses to invest in young employees, a skills-based apprenticeship policy, or a cross-government strategy to join up young people with local jobs, KFC and UK Youth suggested.
It comes as the hospitality sector is facing a shortage of 250,000 seasonal workers, trade body UKHospitality said, as one of the industries worst affected by post-Covid and Brexit labour shortages.