In a joint letter to the Treasury, UKHospitality, The BBPA and more than 70 cross-sector leaders have asked ministers to work with them to secure funding and ensure the sector can play a key part in rebuilding career pathways post-pandemic.
There is a risk that funding from the Apprenticeship Levy will time out and be lost, according to the industry organisations.
Leaders have called for assurance that existing apprenticeships, suspended due to the pandemic, can be completed and that companies will continue to be allowed to access funding, as well as a 12-month freeze on the expiry of all Apprenticeship Levy funding for businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector.
The letter, which was sent to the Treasury, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and which is co-signed by the likes of Azzurri chief executive Steve Holmes, Yo Sushi’s Richard Hodgson and Fuller’s Simon Emeny, follows a continued rise in unemployment caused by the pandemic.
Unemployment across the economy has increased to 1.74 million people, 5.1% of the workforce and up 454,000 in a year, with hospitality alone losing more than 500,000 roles throughout the crisis.
“As we look forward to rebuilding our businesses, our people, including apprentices, will be at the heart of our plans, and we have a track record on increasing apprenticeship starts each year since 2015,” the letter says.
“However, for us to be able to do this fully we need maximum access to the funds we have continued to pay through the Apprenticeship Levy. Over the last year of lockdowns and restrictions we have simply been unable to spend the levy funds on our apprenticeship programmes. These funds are now at risk of expiring and being lost to the purpose for which they were intended – upskilling the UK workforce.”
The hospitality and tourism industries have increased the number of development programmes significantly since the Government revised its strategy in 2015 with the launch of the Apprenticeship Levy.
“In the flux of lockdown and as ministers plot the recovery, we need to ensure that the funding for a major success story over the past five years – apprenticeships in hospitality – is not allowed to simply time out or ebb away,” says Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive.
“This industry employs an enormous number of young people – a third of our workforce is 18-24 and almost a further third is aged 25-34. We are calling on government to help us defend the development and training of our workforce and our business leaders of the future. As we build the recovery we need to maximise the opportunities our sector can offer and work with government to drive employment and boost careers, and upskill a generation.”
“This sector has lost more than 500,000 roles. As we move into reopening, recovery and the rebuild, there is the potential for rapid employment growth and we are asking our partners in government to help us maximise the sector’s potential as an economic and social powerhouse by throwing a shield around this vital funding.”
Prior to the pandemic, the wider hospitality sector employed around 10% of the workforce and was responsible for creating one in eight new jobs.