The importance of supporting young people in the catering industry

Entering the world of work can seem daunting for young people, but for businesses, providing first-time encounters for them in the workplace has become progressively more important. Given today’s economic climate, the gap in skills shortages is currently affecting businesses in several industries across the country – and more young people are seeking alternative ways to get onto the career ladder. 

An award-winning fish and chip chain which has been operating for 31 years in Lincolnshire is opening its fourth restaurant and takeaway in the county next month. The business is considering how best to bridge the skills gap currently affecting the catering industry – and believes that offering young people careers is key to creating a successful workforce for the future.

In today’s business world, the strategy of hiring young staff members as an easy and cheap source of labour, though still adopted by many, is no longer a sustainable practice in the workplace; businesses are having to reconsider the career progression opportunities they offer to employees in order to remain competitive employers.

Investment in staff has always been a priority for the company; the family-run business has initiatives in place to aid staff members with their progression. One member of staff joined the company when she was a teenager as a part-time waitress – after rising through the ranks she has now progressed to a full-time management role, overseeing all three of the company’s restaurants and takeaways and being involved in the launch of the new restaurant and takeaway.

Previously the company has supported its employees by offering to part-fund their degrees, allowing members of staff to forge a career within the company while earning a qualification that broadens their skills. As the business looks ahead to opening more career opportunities for the next generation, Rachel Tweedale, Co-Director at The Elite Fish & Chip Company, shines a light on some of the factors she believes other growing businesses should consider when trying to support young people in the catering industry. 

The benefits of recruiting young people

It is a common mistake to avoid recruiting or investing in young people, who are believed to be inexperienced because they are fresh out of college or university. Recruiting young people allows your business to build a dynamic and productive workforce while also offering young people the opportunity to work their way up in your business which can often be cost-effective in the long term. Initiatives such as apprenticeships are low-cost but provide a big return on investment as it is likely that, with the right training, an apprentice will pay for themselves quickly.

Tackling skills shortages head on 

The skills shortage within many industries, especially the catering sector, is causing great concern. The availability of skilled workers has decreased and will continue to decrease if companies avoid tackling the shortages they are faced with. In order to fill the gap, companies must remain passionate and continue to develop the skills of their own employees. Developing a member of staff within their role and signalling that there is the option to progress their career within the business is one of the most important ways in which employers can reduce these shortages.

Recognising and nurturing talent

There are many advantages to taking the time to find out what employees are good at and how this could be used within your company. Within our own business for example, we discovered that one of our employees had a hidden talent for singing and wanted more exposure on stage to practise. There was a perfect opportunity for this during Christmas as we needed someone to sing at our restaurants during the festive season and it meant that our employee was given a chance to build their confidence while showing off their talent. The benefit of recognising and nurturing talent allows your business to save money and allows your employees to develop skills outside of their day-to-day job role. By unveiling talent, your business can create a workforce that is motivated, engaged and loyal to your company.

Building clear career paths

One of the best ways to retain young employees and improve their overall performance is to offer them clearly defined career paths. Allowing job role experts to advance inside their roles keeps staff motivated and ensures their work remains consistent. An employee who knows what they are working towards and is aware of the steps they need to take to get there, is likely to be highly motivated and an effective resource within the wider business plan. It is also beneficial for your company to be able to effectively plan the needs of the workforce by being more aware of the journey an employee needs to take through the company.

Funding education

Funding your employees’ education while they are employed is often a mutually beneficial business decision. Today, more and more employees are seeking jobs that allow opportunities for progression as it’s these opportunities that result in a more motivated workforce. By investing in the future of an employee, your company is likely to benefit from increased employee retention rates, resulting in more well rounded and productive members of staff. The additional benefits include improvements in PR, as it improves the overall company image for potential new employees, investors and conscious consumers. Within our own business, the part-funded degrees that have been offered to selected staff members have worked well as we’ve been able to hire within the company and spend less time and money recruiting to find a skill set that we can build on by training existing staff members in house. 

By Rachel Tweedale

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