By: Adele Oxberry, CEO and Founder, Umbrella Training
With hospitality vacancies at an all-time high, it’s no secret that the sector has been among the worst hit by the pandemic. As the skills gap continues to grow, apprenticeships offer an opportunity to mould the next generation of talent.
New analysis by UKHospitality, the leading trade group that represents hospitality in the UK, has warned that the sector faces a ‘staffing crisis’, reporting a shortage of approx. 200,000 workers across the industry.
While new immigration rules as a result of Brexit deter skilled European workers from returning to the sector, transferable skills paying more in a multitude of sectors has led an overwhelming level of UK-based staff to move to other industries. Others looking for new roles that can offer better security and flexible working in a crisis situation has presented an additional hurdle for the industry. As it stands, some established businesses have no choice but to respond to staff shortages by cutting back on opening hours.
To run at full capacity, there is a strong need to recruit new staff. But if new staff don’t already have sector experience, many businesses are left wondering how they will cover the costs of extensive training. To have any chance of achieving profitability, they will need to look at their people development strategies differently.
According to the National Apprenticeship Service, 86 percent of employers said that apprentices helped them to develop relevant skills for the organisation, and to fill the skills gap. As well as allowing businesses to match the skills of employees to the skills they need, recruiting apprentices has been proven to raise staff morale, with 73 percent of employers saying so.
Improved productivity and a reduction in staff turnover are among the other benefits of employing apprentices, presenting hospitality businesses with an opportunity to once again attract a highly-skilled workforce. In addition to laying the foundation for business survival at a time when the sector’s reputation is on its knees, apprenticeships could indeed bring a return to growth and prosperity.
With apprenticeships now far more multi-disciplinary in approach – involving both industry experts and academics – they offer hospitality businesses the chance to regain vital skills needed to meet the demand once we resume post-pandemic life. The government increasing incentive payments for hiring new apprentices presents an additional benefit to businesses.
However, the industry needs to adopt a new approach when recruiting and retaining their teams. It is now much discussed that our sector needs to offer security in terms of a solid plan if another lockdown were to occur, and the promise of better pay and conditions, improved training, and a long-term career plan to show commitment to the individual.
Given that mental health and wellbeing are under significant strain amongst hospitality employees in particular, support and guidance in these areas should also be prioritised.
The hospitality industry may be starting on the back foot post-pandemic, but with the help of apprenticeships, there is every chance it can rebuild its reputation as an industry that fosters and develops skills and careers no matter what your background.