The hospitality industry is the third-largest private-sector employer in the UK, that’s twice the size of financial services, yet research has shown that it’s common for there to be more than 100,000 vacancies in the sector at any one time.
Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training

In fact, a recent analysis by the Financial Times found that hospitality is the industry with the highest proportion of ‘hard to fill’ positions. With so many vacancies to fill and as the sector continues to grow, we need to take a serious look at how and where we’re going to attract people into the sector.

One of the biggest areas for opportunity is the younger generation, the potential future hospitality stars. However, at HIT Training, we recently conducted research with ‘Get My First Job’ which found that over half of 16-20-year olds said they wouldn’t consider a career in hospitality. With as many as three in five young adults knowing what they want to do as a career before they turn 20, these results pose the question ‘do hospitality careers need a rebrand to appeal to the younger demographic’?

When it comes to rebranding careers in hospitality, the focus needs to be on inspiring the younger generation to get them considering a career that supports their passion and provides endless opportunities. And it’s not just the well-known roles that need promoting, such as chefs or restaurant managers, it’s the positions in marketing, finance, restaurant design and so on, that really demonstrate the breadth of opportunities available in the industry.

To appeal to the younger generation, we need to first consider what they’re looking for. Our research shows that work experience is the biggest influence on 16-20-year olds’ career choices. Likewise, current hospitality apprentices aged 16-19 said their career decisions were based on their experiences of visiting hospitality outlets and for over a third, it was through conducting work experience. What these statistics show is that robust work experience programmes and engagement with school children from a younger age are key.

So, as an industry, how do we ensure these opportunities are available and clearly communicated to potential new recruits? A combined focus on engagement, skills and training. As professionals within the industry, we have a duty of care to showcase what a career in hospitality can offer to the next generation of employees. We need to shout about the benefits and development programmes in the sector and ensure the training that is available, is of high-quality and prepares employees for a life-long career in the sector, not just for their current positions.
With two-thirds of 16-20-year olds considering an apprenticeship compared to just one in five who are deliberating university, apprenticeship programmes are an effective way to attract the younger generation to the sector. However, since the Apprenticeship Levy has been introduced, there has been a significant decrease in SMEs offering apprenticeships – historically the largest provider of entry-level positions in the industry. As such, this is causing a barrier to social mobility and the growth of the sector, particularly as these positions are required to attract the younger generation.

To support the hospitality industry in overcoming this challenge and to protect the future of the sector, we’ve launched Don’t Waste: The Future of Hospitality, a campaign aimed at bringing the trade together to champion the varied career opportunities. As part of this, we are also calling on Levy-paying businesses in the hospitality sector to pledge to transfer a percentage of their Levy fund to an SME and help provide high-quality development opportunities through apprenticeship programmes across the industry. This comes as our research revealed that 65% of Levy-paying hospitality businesses are currently unaware they can transfer 25% of their funds to help support other businesses.

With the coming few years set to be challenging for hospitality businesses, now is the time to ensure there are collective opportunities across the sector to attract and build the workforce on the future by investing in training for transferrable skills.

For more information on Don’t Waste: The Future of Hospitality or to pledge a percentage of your Levy fund, please visit: www.hittraining.co.uk/dont-waste-campaign