The 250-store group has launched “Pret’s Big Work Experience Week”, offering 500 16-18-year-olds the chance to work across all parts of the business, including in food production, customer service, social responsibility (care for the homeless) and financial control.
The campaign comes after Pret HR director Andrea Wareham told a House of Lords select committee that the company would struggle to find enough staff if it could no longer employ EU nationals after Brexit, and that just 1 in 50 applications to the group is from a British person.
Many British workers still have a negative view of the hospitality industry, she said.
The group employs workers from 100 nationalities, and 65% of its workforce comes from outside Britain, she added.
The Big Work Experience Week initiative asks ‘why couldn’t it be you serving the coffee in Pret?’, and claims that with hard work, Pret workers – and others within hospitality – can move quickly through the ranks to receive a good wage, ambitious career progression and ‘plenty of play’.
“Attracting British applicants is not exclusively a Pret problem, and is symptomatic of a wider cultural bias,” Wareham’s initiative reads. “British schools and parents don’t always take careers in the hospitality industry seriously, but they really ought to.”
“It will take time and effort to change the hearts and minds of the British public, parents and schools. This is a long-term challenge that Pret and the wider industry must meet to ensure hospitality is seen by Brits as a serious career choice.”
The venture joins a wider conversation in hospitality about encouraging young people to see hospitality as a viable career, and the effect that Brexit may have on the workforce.
In September last year, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) condemned a survey as “outdated” after it showed that just 12% of parents would see hospitality as a good career option.
“Hospitality is a successful and growing industry,” said Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, at the time. “However, there are still widespread misconceptions amongst many outside the industry.”
“We urge young people to look beyond outdated viewpoints to see the breadth of job roles and the training available in our industry, and the ability for bright and focused young people to succeed very quickly.