The discussion, which took place at the Show’s Business Bootcamp on Wednesday, focused on how to attract the next generation of talent to hotels, restaurants and pubs across the UK. It centred around the view that the industry is overcrowded with trade bodies which, despite trying to help more young people break into the sector, are actually over-complicating the issue.
Suzy Jackson, head of the recently-established Hospitality Guild,spoke first. “The problem is very real,” she said. “Seventeen per cent of all employers in hospitality have job vacancies and, of those, 64 per cent are at manager level.
“As an industry, we’ve got 156 trade bodies and there are around 4,000 various initiatives, all of which are right in their own ways, but we just speak with too many voices.
“The only way that we are going to impact and influence the future is to get employers, education institutions and the Government to talk with one voice, to incentivise people to be trained and developed.”
Gary Hunter, head of culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway college, echoed the view of Jackson, adding: “We need to have a two-pronged approach: first and foremost the Government need to acknowledge the importance of the UK hospitality industry right now. They’ve relied on us massively this summer for the Olympics,now they need to repay that with some serious funding in training.
“And secondly, the industry needs to individually embrace young people into the environment and The Restaurant Show is actually a key component of that – the show does not allow 18-year-olds or younger to enter it. I’ve had students that were turned away at the door yesterday – if they can’t come into a forum like this and engage with the industry head-on, then it’s a massive disservice.”
Ben Spalding, head chef of the soon-to-open John Salt restaurant,believes that, while there is a band of young people who are choosing not to work, it should be the job of chefs to help attract those that do.
“There’s a big factor that we’re overlooking: there’s a large percentage of youngsters in England who are just bloody lazy,” said Spalding. “It’s overlooked and I’m going to say it because it’s true. You can point the finger at the schools, the parents, but it will always be a big chunk of people that could work in the industry but aren’t.
“From my point of view though, chefs should be liaising more with schools, trying to strike up a deal to bring young people in. I’m more than happy to spend my own personal time helping to nurture young people.”
Also speaking in the discussion was Marcus Weedon, senior recruitment manager at Carluccio’s – the chain has just opened a training academy in Islington which provides 50 different courses for trainee restaurant workers.
“We need to make this industry look more attractive,” said Weedon. “It’s an industry where we do work a lot of hours but it’s so interesting and absorbing for people and it’s a great industry to move around with and have fun while you work – there’s not many other industries that offer that much.
“One of the things that we’ve seen in most of the universities that we go to is that it’s really difficult for the careers advisors to engage with their students, to get them to come along to presentations - sometimes it’s easier to actually go directly to the professors themselves.”
Jackson believes the Hospitality Guild could be the answer. The new umbrella organisation was given £1.7m-worth of Government funding last year to provide one voice for the industry. It has spent nine months selecting the most important trade organisations, which now regularly sit around the table in four mandate groups.
“We’ve removed the politics and we now have these organisations sat round the tale with one mission and one voice,” she said. “One of the groups works on raising awareness in schools and colleges; the second works on standardising training and development; the third group do career pathways; and the fourth looks at professional development.”
Another hot topic at the discussion, which was chaired by BigHospitality’s editor Emma Eversham, was apprenticeships in hospitality.Jackson was quick to point out that employers can often be put off by the bureaucracy surrounding an apprenticeship scheme.
“Apprenticeships are one way in, they create loyalty. For employees, they can train while they learn, they can earn while they learn and they can get one-to-one personal development.
“But on the other hand, we have an issue and that is that employers just don’t understand them. It’s far too complex; employers will be bombarded with bits of paper from various independent training providers and it’s just not simple enough.”
As one of those potential employers, chef Spalding agreed that there may be more efficient and direct methods of getting young people into work. “I don’t think apprenticeships are the best avenue to go down right now,” he said. “I would struggle to do one or two at a time - with all the paperwork, there’s just not enough hours in the day.”
Other points raised during the discussion:
- Engaging younger people – “There are so many kids aged 12, 13 and 14 that have absolutely no idea about the hospitality industry because the closest they even come to touching it is a couple of fast food joints,” said Hunter of Westminster Kingsway.
“We need to engage 14-year-olds and that’s through re-energising the food curriculum in schools so that everybody does proper food, understanding the social aspects of cooking food.
- Entering schools – Spalding said: “From my point of view, chefs should be liaising more with schools, trying to strike up a deal to bring young people in. I’m more than happy to spend my own personal time helping to nurture young people.”
- Spreading the message– Jackson added: “Historically, hospitality has been a bit of a fall-back. And we’re still not getting the message out that this industry should be a career of choice for so many more young people.”