The frustration within the hospitality industry is clear to see, from local newspapers reporting on rising job vacancies to restaurants posting on social media outlining a reduction in opening hours.
Extended periods of business closure over the past 18 months, combined with the impact of Brexit and the ‘pingdemic’ crisis, have left countless venues operating with a drastically decreased workforce.
At a time when restaurants, pubs, cafes, and hotels need more resource than ever before, staff absences and job vacancies have never been higher.
Venues across the country are in desperate need of staff who can learn and develop quickly to fill these gaps. But in order to attract staff – and avoid losing further talented workers to other industries – employers must offer their employees more than just a job. They should be offering a career.
Staff turnover has always been a challenge for the hospitality sector, but if the past 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that we need to give staff a clear path to success – one that offers plenty of opportunities to progress. Employers no longer have the luxury of relying on a revolving door of candidates; it’s time to invest in training and career development.
Apprenticeships are one of the best ways to offer a career with longevity, helping to unlock skills quickly, and fast-track highly motivated staff into positions where they can provide real value. However, the challenging facing the hospitality industry is ensuring that employers can offer enough variety to attract the motivated and passionate talent they need.
A new opportunity for apprentices
Earlier this year, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a £7million fund to run ‘flexi-job’ apprenticeships, focusing on creative sectors and construction. This approach involves organisations applying for money to start new agencies which support apprentices and place them with multiple employers.
It’s a strategy that may be helpful to some hospitality employers but will be fraught with risk for most, as the lead employer must employ all the apprentices on the scheme. While this means that apprentices will be able to work across a range of projects with different employers, which could be the solution that the hospitality sector desperately needs, a Flexible Apprenticeship approach would deliver better results.
Flexible delivery models would allow employers to ‘front-load’ training, embedding skills and behaviours early on and allowing apprentices to gain the core knowledge they need to enter the workplace with confidence. We’ve already seen industry bodies and the government lay out how this would work for other industries. There is no reason why this couldn’t be applied to the hospitality sector, and soon.
And there’s no reason why this couldn’t also be taken a step further with a multi-skilled hospitality apprenticeship, whereby apprentices would spend time in a variety of roles across the sector before finding their niche area.
Not only would this help businesses utilise levy funds better, offer increased flexibility and provide access to a bigger talent pool, it would also establish collaboration between employers, creating an exciting, productive, and valuable experience for apprentices. It would also help to resolve the big issue of low pay, as employers could pay more and sooner, as people build their skills faster.
Investing in the future of hospitality
It has been a challenging time for the hospitality sector. We’ve seen hundreds of thousand of talented people move away from venues in search of more secure career opportunities, and it cannot go on.
New research from KAM2 found that just one in five adults consider hospitality to be an appealing industry to work in, while 23% still view the industry as a ‘shot term gap’ and only 10% see it as a respected career choice.
We need to make hospitality as secure an option as any other. We need to reassure people that the opportunities are there. We need to inspire a new generation of employees. And that means investing in their future, and giving them access to a wide variety of experiences and environments across the sector.
By offering an enhanced work-life experience and opening the door for apprentices to explore more of the industry than ever before, flexi-apprenticeships can not only strengthen, but future-proof the hospitality workforce as we emerge from this pandemic.
HIT Training has worked with People 1st, UKHospitality, the ESFA Hospitality Apprenticeship Stakeholders' Group, Lifetime Training and the AELP Hospitality Special Interests Group to put forward a solution for the industry, so watch this space.