Facing up to the skills shortage with apprenticeships

The UK hospitality industry is facing what some experts call a ‘dire skills shortage’. In 2018 alone, up to 375,000 positions need to be filled and in restaurants and bars in particular, there are more than 125,000 roles vacant. To add to this, it’s predicted we will lose one million workers in the next decade if EU migration is limited. Jill Whittaker, managing director of HIT Training, discusses how businesses can plug the skills shortage through apprenticeships.

“First and foremost, although the sector has come a long way, there is a lot more that needs to be done to attract new talent and change perceptions of a career in catering. Figures from Best Western’s Career Index show just 17% of parents view a career in hospitality in a positive light and one third would actively discourage their children from working in the sector.

“What’s more, recent research has highlighted that a lack of career prospects is one of the top three reasons – alongside unsociable working hours and low pay – why the hospitality sector suffers from an annual staff retention level of just 70% (versus UK average of 85%).

“Although these figures can make for a depressing read, it’s not all doom and gloom – we’re a resilient bunch in the catering industry and regularly adapt to market changes and challenges. For example, one way in which forward-thinking catering operators are tackling the skills shortage is by investing in high-quality training – such as apprenticeships.

“Changing practices, new trends and updated technology systems mean that the world of work requires continual training and education to keep skills current and relevant. Offering employees an apprenticeship not only ensures a workforces’ skills are current but also gives the message that an employer is willing to invest in their team and spend the necessary time and money ensuring they’re confident and happy in their role.

“With the introduction of apprenticeship standards two years ago, training has become more relevant and rigorous than ever before. For employees – whether they’re new recruits or longstanding members of the team – apprenticeships can offer a long-term structure, clear path of progression and an end goal to work towards. In fact, figures from Indeed show one in three apprentices receive a promotion within a year of completing their course.

“There are a whole host of qualifications available which meet the requirements of today’s fast-pace and, at times, challenging sector. Starting at level 2 and running all the way to degree level, employees don’t need to stop their development after doing one apprenticeship and can continue their training throughout their career. With courses ranging from Hospitality Team Member and Commis Chef to Hospitality Supervisor and Hospitality Manager, operators can ensure customers are receiving a high standard of service across all departments – leading to happier customers and ultimately increased profits.

“Feeling proud of your job, meaningful career prospects and working for an employer that cares about your progression are all big selling points for professionals. For catering businesses looking to attract and retain talent, highlighting the advantages of apprenticeships – for new starters and senior employees – is a good place to start. There aren’t many other sectors you could be in a supervisory role by 19 or 20 years old, for example.

“Investing in training programmes which motivate employees and encourage them to achieve their career goals and aspirations will help to create a dynamic and enthusiastic workforce, while also securing a prosperous future for the catering industry for years to come.”

By Jill Whittaker, managing director of hospitality training provider, HIT Training

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