National Apprenticeship Week 2014: Hospitality leads the way

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Hotels, restaurants and pubs - and Boris Johnson - have supported National Apprenticeship Week
Hotels, restaurants and pubs - and Boris Johnson - have supported National Apprenticeship Week

Related tags: National apprenticeship, Vocational education, Apprenticeship, Mitchells & butlers

As the seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week draws to a close, BigHospitality has heard from an array of hotels, restaurants and pubs - and even Boris Johnson – all pledging their support for the initiative.

Ahead of the week, which ran from 3-7 March, a new report revealed that increasing the number of apprentices in the UK would provide a £4bn a year boost to the economy.

And hospitality businesses large and small appear to have taken heed,​ with the likes of Whitbread, Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King all making significant apprenticeship pledges.

We began National Apprenticeship Week at Premier Inn in Leicester Square, where the Mayor of London Boris Johnson got things off to a ‘frying start’;​ gaining a hands-on experience of hospitality apprenticeships and revealing plans with the British Hospitality Association (BHA) to create 7,000 new apprenticeship positions in the catering industry by the end of 2016.

VIDEO: Boris Johnson launches National Apprenticeship 2014

Johnson said: “Thanks to London’s international appeal as a top tourist destination, hospitality is one of the city’s boom industries and it is superb to have the support of the BHA in supporting 7,000 more young Londoners into a great career and helping to meet the demand for a skilled and dedicated workforce in this field.

“Apprenticeships not only help young people get a foot on the career ladder, they boost businesses with an eager, committed workforce – I urge all London’s firms to grasp the opportunity and take on an apprentice.”

To support the BHA in meeting their pledge, the Mayor will be running a campaign to promote apprenticeships across the city this year and City Hall will host the Big Hospitality Conversation event at City Hall in September, bringing together influential industry leaders from the top hospitality businesses with young people.

Premier Inn’s owner, Whitbread​, brought more good news to proceedings with the announcement that it would commit to creating an additional 2,000 apprenticeship positions across the company by 2016.

Greene King

Two thousand was also the magic number for nationwide brewer and pub operator Greene King, which has pledged to recruit 2,000 apprentices to follow a ‘new and improved’ career path which now includes advanced management qualifications and enhanced kitchen skills qualifications.

Developed in partnership with Charnwood Training Group, the Greene King apprenticeship has so far been undertaken by over 3,500 employees, working across the group’s pub, bar, restaurant and hotel outlets.

And the company has since enjoyed positive results; with team turnover falling 8%, employee engagement rising 4%, and labour productivity improving by over 2% over the past 12 months.

John Smith, group HR director for Greene King, said: “As our business grows, we are proud to offer the apprentices that join Greene King the opportunity move straight onto a career path to allow them to fulfil their true potential.”

Mitchells & Butlers

Fellow pub operator Mitchells & Butlers has pledged to recruit 1,000 new skills-based apprentices over the next two years, to work across its brands including All Bar One, Browns, Harvester, Miller & Carter, Toby Carvery and Nicholson’s.

“Our apprentices can train with us, work with us, and build a career with us – helping us continue to deliver exceptional service to our guests,” said the group’s chief executive Alistair Darby.

The Mitchells & Butlers pledge will add to the 1,500 apprenticeships currently on vocational learning programmes across the company. To recruit young people, Mitchells & Butlers is working in partnership with Believe in Young People (BiYP) - a charity dedicated to bringing business and schools together to help bridge the gap between education and employment.

Spirit Pub Company

Meanwhile, Sprit Pub Company, which owns and manages the Fayre & Square, Flaming Grill and Chef & Brewer brands, has announced it is looking to double the number of management apprenticeships over the coming 12 months.

With over 900 apprentices currently in learning across the suite of five apprenticeships on offer, Spirit plans to increase the number of management apprentices by 500 over the next year, in addition to the 330 team leaders and 120 advanced apprentices currently enrolled in leadership and management so far this year.

“Our first intake of learners graduated earlier this year and we have already seen 35% progress to the role of general manager,” said Spirit’s national qualifications manager Jo Bradford.

20,000 apprenticeship jobs

These new hospitality industry pledges are just some of the contributions made to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week. In fact, more than 20,000 new apprenticeships have been pledged by employers as part of the week-long initiative.

Summarising the Week, Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The resounding success of this year’s National Apprenticeship week demonstrates that apprenticeships are deservedly becoming more popular with business of all sizes.

“Apprentices already contribute £1.8bn to the economy and with these further commitments, thousands more people will now be able to get the practical skills they need to build careers and help firms grow.”

National Apprenticeship Week may now be over, but hospitality employers are still being encouraged to get involved.

So - what’s your business doing? Has your hotel, restaurant or pub taken on extra apprentices this year? Are you running any special initiatives for the year ahead? Or perhaps you have some general thoughts about apprenticeships that you’d like to discuss.

Leave a comment below or tweet us @BigHospitality​ using #NAW2014​ to share your views. 

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