The hospitality industry is in crisis because too few young people are choosing a career as a chef, the Culinary Association of Wales president has warned.

Arwyn Watkins is concerned not only about a shortage of people entering the industry but also about the high dropout rate after learners have completed their further education courses.

Mr Watkins said the crisis is making headlines not just in Wales and the UK but across North Europe and North America.

Speaking at the Welsh International Culinary Championships awards dinner, he said: “I believe this is no longer a skills shortage but a people shortage. Not enough individuals are taking this industry as a serious career choice. Even when they have made that career choice, not enough are progressing on to the industry on completion of further education.

“This is an industry which is very important to the future of the Welsh economy and we need to work with partners in Wales to ensure that we can increase the uptake of our industry as a career choice.

“We have to work with employers to share best practice on work life balances and the changing dynamics and expectations of the workforce. No longer can our industry survive on goodwill. We all have to think differently if we are to secure a sustainable workforce. Not an easy ask but necessary.”

Deputy Minister for Farming and Food Rebecca Evans, a guest at the awards dinner, said she was passionate about raising the profile of rewarding and exciting careers in the food and tourism industries in Wales.

She said the country had world-class food and drink producers and chefs and hospitality businesses were developing a reputation for excellence, but more needed to be done.

The main awards went to: Junior Chef of Wales winner, Ben Mitchell, The Grove Hotel, Narberth; National Chef of Wales winner, Ben Mitchell, Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, near Bath; Battle for the Dragon winners, England; Open live class winner, Elise Evans, Coleg Cymoedd; Best team live, Loughborough College; Overall Cake Cymru winner, Dianne Swan, former Coleg Llandrillo learner; Best hygiene award sponsored by Eco Lab, Shannon Lee, City of Liverpool College; Best college, North Warwick and Hinckley College.