The groups, which describe themselves as representing 2,000 food businesses in the UK that employ more than 300,000 people, have written an open letter to MPs.
It is signed by Jim Winship, director of The British Sandwich & Food-to-Go Association, and signed additionally on behalf of The Asian Catering Association, The Café Society, The National Catering Association and The Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association.
In the letter, the groups said the foodservice sector was reliant on employees from outside the UK, particularly young people here to study or gain work experience.
“From manufacturing to small corner sandwich shops, cafés and pizzerias, our industry is extremely dependent on manual labour, of which there are already shortages in some areas,” the letter stated.
The trade groups said there was a need to recruit people with good service skills, adding they believed they had come up with an approach that could provide industries with the employees they rely on, while introducing controls on immigration in a structured way.
“We fully understand the need to control immigration,” it continued. “We believe there is a real opportunity for the UK to support the growth in these industries and provide those working in them to gain skills that they can take back to their own countries,” it said.
It added that a points system for immigration – as suggested by various parties – would penalise unskilled workers, which the foodservice industry needs.
“Our alternative suggestion is that the UK creates a ‘training’ programme, which would allow workers into the UK on a six- or 12-month visa provided they are receiving training. The visa might be specific to an employer, so that the individual is bound to that employer for the period.”
But it added that a points system would be welcome in areas where there are specific skills shortages – such as experienced pizza chefs – provided it allowed for the shortages of such skills.
“Our members would also undertake to advertise vacancies in the UK before seeking candidates from abroad,” said the letter.