This year’s Hotelympia saw discussions taking place on the benefits of creating work experience, apprenticeships and jobs for 16 to 24 year olds in the hospitality industry, not just for young people, but also for the businesses themselves.
BigHospitality attended the Big Hospitality Conversation and Act Now on Apprenticeships on 29 April, both of which appealed for businesses to help get young people involved in the industry, whether through hiring them, offering work experience, or contributing ideas to the changing face of apprenticeships which will shortly be happening throughout the industry.
The expanding hospitality industry
At the Big Hospitality Conversation, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) Ufi Ibrahim highlighted the importance of engaging young people in an industry that is expanding so rapidly.
Ibrahim believes that the growth prospects of the hospitality industry are very strong. The BHA have been working with Oxford Economics to conduct research which supports the fact that, even if the industry continues to grow at a baseline percentage, by 2020 it will need 300,000 new employees to facilitate that growth.
“Our industry is actually up against the clock to find enough people to be able to support our growth. To compete to be the best, we need to have the best people, talent and training as well as the best development programs,” said Ibrahim.
“It’s the only way we can be the best hospitality industry in the world, so it’s not just generosity—this is business.”
Future success and business pledges
Ibrahim also highlighted how engaging young people in the industry could protect UK businesses from international competition and ensure they continue to do well in future years.
She said: “As an industry that serves people we need to be more in touch with every generation, including younger people. They are the future and we need them to assure our industry’s future success.”
A number of hospitality businesses that were represented at Hotelympia are already involved with the initiative and claim to recognise the importance of young people to the industry. Over the last two years of Big Hospitality Conversations, 34,000 pledges have been made by businesses to employ young people or offer them work experience or apprenticeships.
Managing director of Whitbread Patrick Dempsey said: “At Premier Inn we work very closely with the Princes Trust and Job Centre Plus to try and take as many of our new employees as we can from unemployed 16 to 24 year olds.
“This year we took 750 young people in. We’ve had some real success stories and it’s worked well for both them and us. We find that people who’ve been finding it hard to get a job are really passionate about getting the chance to work when they come to us.”
Chief executive at Ed’s Easy Diner, which was recently named the fastest-growing restaurant group in the UK, Andrew Guy said: “When we opened in Liverpool we worked with Springboard to recruit new staff and we had 1835 apps for 35 jobs.
“Obviously it’s fairly difficult cutting through that and the sad thing is that as we closed in on the people we chose to hire, there were an awful lot of others that were very close and really great too. That’s why it’s important to make pledges to employ these people and offer apprenticeships and work experience.”
Work experience is key
Chief executive at the Springboard charity Anne Pierce was keen to enforce the importance of offering young people work experience in the hospitality industry. Recent research done by Springboard showed that 82 per cent of young people leave education having no idea what they want to do, but that 53 per cent of them would positively consider hospitality as a career.
Pierce said: “Our research shows that work experience is the deal breaker in the career deciding process, so it’s so important to ensure all work experience we give is great work experience.
“We’ve got an industry that’s growing and it has shortages, if we invest in better quality work experience, we’re going to attract more of those young people who are open to persuasion and they can fill those gaps.”
Chef at the Ivy Club, April Partridge, who won Hotelympia’s Hot Talent award in 2012, is also a big supporter of industry work experience.
She said: “When I was 15 I spent two weeks in a restaurant in London doing work experience, and for me that was it, it was a light bulb moment and I fell in love with the job.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about trying to get people in the industry more involved with young people. I believe that if you give young people the opportunity, they will prove to you that they’re worth it.”
A change for apprenticeships
In 2012 the Government announced an independent review of apprenticeships in England. The Hospitality Guild launched Act Now On Apprenticeships to ‘raise employers’ and learners’ awareness’ so the industry could work towards a set of apprenticeship guidelines that were developed by businesses in the industry themselves. A professional panel at Hotelympia was discussing the virtues of this and how best to get employers involved with the process of changing apprenticeships.
Director of operations at People 1st Martine Pullen said: “Apprenticeships as we know them will soon cease to exist and will be replaced with new employer-lead and employer-developed schemes that are designed to meet the needs of the industries that have developed them.
“At the moment we’re going through a time of change, but it is all in the hands of employers. So far we’ve found that hospitality businesses have been really engaged, it’s been amazing.”
Not everyone is in support of the changes however and there are worries that hospitality SMEs who are not members of BHA will get left behind in the decision making process and end up having too much imposed upon them.
These talks at Hotelympia come not long after recent claims from the BHA and Women 1st that the hospitality industry faces stunted growth unless more is done to attract young people to the field. Debates like this show that getting youngsters involved in hospitality is currently a key issue for the industry, and not one that has a clear solution yet.