Figures from the Skills Funding Agency show that 35,540 people started an apprenticeship in hospitality and catering between 2011 and 2012 compared to 16,790 between 2008 and 2009 while completion rates during that time increased by 10 per cent to 74 per cent.
People 1st chief executive Brian Wisdom, whose organisation launched an apprenticeship strategy in 2009 and has been working with the Hospitality Guild on its Act NOW! campaign to boost the number of apprenticeships within hospitality, said the industry should be proud of its gains, particularly as completion rates had remained static in other industries.
He said: “The results have clearly been successful. We’ve revised almost all of the hospitality and catering apprenticeship frameworks to make sure that apprentices have the skills employers need, that stretch the learner, but are also flexible enough to reflect all parts of the industry.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from employers and providers saying that learners are now getting the skills they need, and this has obviously had a big impact on the number of apprenticeships employers are offering.”
However, while the number of hospitality and catering apprenticeships taken up in the last few years has improved, it has not improved enough among independent operators, according to former BHA chief executive Bob Cotton, who says many companies are failing to take advantage of the funding available to them or see the benefits involved in investing in staff.
Currently an apprentice's main training is paid for by the Government while employers also receive £1,500 per apprentice taken on under the age of 24, provided they haven’t taken on any in the prior 12 months and don’t employ more than 1,000 staff.
Cotton, who was last year appointed senior advisor to the hospitality industry by Wellers Accountants, pointed out that of the 520,600 apprenticeships taken up in the whole of the UK between 2011 and 2012, just 7 per cent of them were in hospitality and with Government spending on apprenticeships set to increase again this year, it was an area more companies should consider getting involved in.
"It is also important to note that apprenticeships have been extended to all ages and are now delivered individually to the employer’s requirements," he said. "No employer should have to put their hand in their pocket to fund training - the Government provide this and yet many companies are unaware."
Training for success
Operators who were reluctant to train staff because they didn't have the time, or feared staff leaving at the end of training, should not worry, according to Cotton.
“The thing to remember is, if you have someone good and they stay at your company for two or three years then you will have got something from this investment," he said. If you have them for the good years then should they leave, you will most likely have obtained a return on investment. You should also then have the process and systems for training successful new employees,” he said.
"Admittedly, the entry level salary in the sector is comparatively low so it is important for employers to sell the career opportunities. Staff commencing their careers need to see where the job and training can lead to, an end goal. It will help them accept the pain of a lower initial starting salary. The hospitality trade needs to attract the talent out there, not just those who couldn’t make it in other sectors. It is up to both employers and educators to make sure people are kept excited, passionate and want to stay in the industry."
As well as working with the Hospitality Guild to push forward on apprenticeships within hospitality, People 1st will also be looking to develop an industrial partnership for the visitor and tourism economy, which it said would provide a way for employers to truly offer training – including apprenticeships – that would benefit their business in a changing operating environment.
“We’ve submitted an initial bid to the Government to set this partnership up and we’re always seeking more support from employers who want to get involved," said Wisdom.
"Providing a new platform for employers and providers to take a more active role in apprenticeship delivery is just one of the aims this new partnership will deliver.”