Guernsey Press

Kenya a prime source of staff as Brexit closes door on EU

THE Bailiwick is increasingly looking to Kenya to fill critical gaps in the job market.

Lee Madden and Em Holliday of recruitment company GR8 with the Kenyan High Commissioner Manoah Esipisu.

Difficulties with recruiting from the EU since Brexit have meant that some sectors, especially hospitality, have gone further afield in order to fill vacancies.

‘The Guernsey Hospitality Association has been instrumental in the change of policy to allow non-EU staff to come here,’ said GHA president Alan Sillett.

‘As well as Kenya, we have recruited from Bangladesh, the Philippines and India.’

He called the Kenyan staff ‘a real asset to our industry’.

‘The Kenyan staff have been fabulous. We need committed professionals and we have had lots of comments in the past 12 months from people saying how levels of service have increased.’

The local link with Africa was established through Jersey-based recruiters GR8.

Recently its senior staff were in London to meet Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua and the country’s High Commissioner Manoah Esipisu.

‘Brexit meant there was a sudden need to look beyond the UK and EU for seasonal and contract staff,’ said GR8 director Lee Madden.

Sharing a common language and values, GR8 already had an established relationship with the Kenya Utali College, a hospitality training college in Nairobi.

The company has almost 100 recruits from Kenya working in Guernsey, almost all in hospitality, but is forecasting to be filling another 100 roles in sectors as diverse as construction, healthcare and veterinary services this year.

Mr Madden said he had been in discussions with the Kenyan Government over a bilateral agreement to supply skilled staff to the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

‘This trend will only increase in value to the economies and communities in Kenya, the Channel Islands and the UK and Ireland.

‘We have built up a relationship with training colleges and Kenyan officials over a number of years.

‘We are already used as a route into the Channel Islands for skilled workers from Kenya who are available to work in the hospitality, construction and care sectors, and we are already providing that service into the UK and Ireland too.

‘We have 10,000 professionals from Kenya on our database who we are ready to match up with suitable vacancies.’

Mr Mutua also met a UK Commonwealth delegation in London last week, which included Foreign Secretary James Cleverly MP.

He said afterwards that Kenya had requested a ‘quota’ of 2,000 nurses, 1,000 seasonal agricultural workers, and 8,000 seasonal jobs in construction, hospitality and health, including those heading for the islands.

‘People are curious about my story, but so lovely’

Veronicah Ndegwa managed a hotel in Somalia before coming to Guernsey to work primarily as a waitress at Moores Hotel, but she hopes to learn from the Sarnia Hotels Group and progress her career (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31917779)

VERONICAH NDEGWA is one of 12 Kenyans working at hotels that are part of the Sarnia Hotels Group.

Primarily a waitress at Moores Hotel, she interviewed for her position originally in 2019, but Covid delayed her starting in Guernsey until March 2022.

‘People are lovely, warm and hospitable here, but also curious about my story too,’ she said.

‘Being a black African I was worried about racism, but I’ve experienced nothing at all, the Guernsey people have been just lovely.’

Prior to arriving in the Bailiwick, she managed a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia.

‘This was a little bit of a step down for me, but it allows me to learn the system here and hopefully I’ll progress. The hotel have been wonderful with help and feedback.’

She admitted that before her interview with the recruitment company that she had not heard of Guernsey or the Channel Islands.

‘Now I want to experience as much of the islands as I can. I had a great first summer, I went to Herm and Jersey and got to know all the beaches. I’ve done a lot of nature walks, and visited the Little Chapel and Castle Cornet.

‘And I just love the sunsets – the sunsets over the ocean are just...’

She has just returned from a five-week holiday in her homeland, where she caught up with family and friends.

Originally from the town of Nyeri, about 100km north of Nairobi, she has since moved to the capital.

‘Nairobi is known as the city under the sun, because it’s on the equator, and although we have rainy seasons, the winters just aren’t as intense. I got back to a foggy, rainy, wintry island.

‘I have been a little bit homesick, but video calls and the internet have made communication so much easier so I don’t feel the loneliness.’

One of her favourite parts in the change of culture was experiencing a Guernsey Christmas.

‘Christmas is celebrated in Kenya, but nothing like this, with all the street lights and the gift giving. I actually got invited to the home of one of our customers for Christmas Day, which was wonderful. I got given so many presents. I need to be much more prepared this year.’