Why this hospitality CEO is running for local council

Skills Connect International CEO Roy McCullagh is on a mission to get the hospitality industry back on its feet after COVID-19 lockdowns. While his business is focussed on recruiting staff for venues as they reopen, McCullagh has also decided to run as a candidate in his local council election to help drive change.

McCullagh has spent decades working in hospitality from the ground up. He has extensive experience with global hospitality brands and is passionate about creating positive outcomes for venues and staff following the disruptions the pandemic has created.

“I helped launch Skills Connect earlier this year, with the aim of connect really great venues with really great staff,” McCullagh said. “It’s been devastating for businesses and for staff who were from overseas who lost everything. During the first lockdown, many had to go home if they could get out of the country and those that stayed couldn’t pay their rent.”

He’s since sourced kitchen hands and chefs for numerous venues that were struggling to reopen due to staff shortages.

“It’s been incredibly fulfilling to have the chance to lend a hand,” McCullagh said. “I had one client contact me this week saying that I’d ‘saved his ass’ during this challenging time by connecting him with a great candidate.”

When McCullagh heard his local council – Willoughby City Council – was holding an election, he saw another opportunity to help both the hospitality industry and his local community.

“There are so many ‘for lease’ signs in the area due to COVID-19,” he said. “I want to try and change that and encourage small businesses to open here.”

McCullagh gives the example of a thriving Northbridge venue, The Sailor Bar, which he recently helped through Skills Connect to source a day manager. The CEO is a regular customer of The Sailor Bar and passionate supporter of its owner, Kieran Fitsall (above).

“We have a strong focus on helping and supporting local businesses,” McCullagh said. “The food and service The Sailor Bar provides is world class and has really put Northbridge on the food lovers’ map. I want to help more businesses thrive in the area.”      

Supporting local small business

During his campaign to become a Willoughby councillor, McCullagh has responded to numerous business and community concerns in his local area.

“For example, as a Sailors Bay Ward local, I have noticed a significant decline over the years in the upkeep and cleanliness of our public spaces, such as Chatswood CBD, Willoughby’s High Street and Northbridge Plaza carpark, just to name a few,” he said. “I can’t recall ever seeing council workers out in our suburb carrying out maintenance or cleaning. Residents and business owners tell me they would like to see this addressed.”

While Northbridge Plaza is managed by AMP, the carpark itself (above) is the responsibility of Willoughby Council. However, it is becoming increasingly neglected. The area is overgrown and filled with rubbish. He plans to prioritise better sanitation in public areas if he is elected.

McCullagh’s team has organised a clean-up of the carpark this Saturday, November 6, 2021. Read more.

He’s also asked in the Open Comment section of the latest Willoughby Council meeting why rates have increased in the local government area, but the level of service has decreased.

“The response I received reminded me why I am running for Council. My request was met with derision – it is time for a change and truly independent fresh faces.”

Inspiring the next generation to work in hospitality

McCullagh is also working with an organisation called Inspiring The Future, to help kids prepare for job interviews. The organisation aims to broaden the horizons and raise the aspirations of all young people, from primary school students to high school students. 95% of young people say they want employers to be more involved in providing advice and guidance about careers and Inspiring the Future is on a mission to help make those connections.

“To me that’s where the satisfaction comes from, when I meet these young people and see the potential they have,” he revealed. “Often they just need someone who believes in them and can push them. I’ve even driven a few people to their first shifts to give them a start.”

Watch his recent session with Inspiring The Future below:

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Categories: Business