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Five reasons why you need to recruit from your local accredited college

Guest blog from Sean Wheeler, Project 1898

Let’s face it – hospitality recruitment is challenging.

Finding and keeping skilled staff is something the industry has been struggling with for decades, as The Caterer noted in a recent article for its ‘Think Again’ campaign. It’s certainly an issue I’ve faced throughout my career working in HR in hospitality.

The truth is that our talent pool is shrinking – there are so many options for young people today, and we need to fight hard to attract the best talent, and keep it in our sector.

So wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to find the colleges that produced the best students, and to develop a relationship with them so we can cultivate their passion for the industry? Luckily, there is.

People 1st accreditation is a stamp of approval that recognises excellence in training and qualifications in hospitality, tourism, passenger transport and travel. Endorsed by a group of leading hospitality employers, it’s a great partnership that is really gaining momentum, with 28 colleges now recognised as achieving accredited status.

If you’re not already recruiting from your local accredited college, here are five reasons why you should be...

1. They’re quality assured

Getting accredited isn’t easy. Colleges have to go through a rigorous approval process to make sure that they’re meeting the standard, and the final decision on whether they’re successful sits with a panel of leading hospitality businesses.

They also have to prove that they are working proactively with businesses and that they’re matching their learners’ skills with employers’ needs.

When you recruit from an accredited college, you’ll get an assurance that they’ve taught their students the skills that are relevant for our industry, for today and tomorrow.

2. You’ll get confident, work-ready staff

The shift from studying to the world of work isn’t always easy for students – or their employers. It can be a culture shock – but students from accredited colleges will be more prepared for this than most.

The majority of accredited colleges operate commercial college restaurants, staffed by their students. They’re getting daily experience of working in the industry, serving paying customers and everything else that comes with that responsibility.

And these aren’t just ‘training restaurants’ – accredited colleges can apply to have their colleges recognised through the AA College Rosette Scheme, something that’s only available to People 1st-accredited colleges. So they’re not just meeting People 1st standards, they’re meeting AA standards too.

I was recently involved in the judging for the AA College Restaurant of the Year award, where these colleges competed to be crowned best of the best, and to say we were blown away was an understatement. The calibre and enthusiasm of the students was incredible. 

I was also lucky enough to attend an event at Pennyhill Park where students from the three finalist colleges were invited to help prepare and serve lunch. They were confident, competent, and delivered excellent food and service to a room full of industry leaders.

These students are a credit to their colleges and will make fantastic hospitality employees. Can you afford not to be picking up that kind of talent?

3. You can influence students while they’re still learning

What better way to find great young people for your business than get to know them while they study? And by working with them while they’re still learning, you don’t have to iron out any bad habits they might have picked up from another employer.

There are lots of ways you can develop a relationship with your local accredited college. Offering work experience for students, running masterclasses or guest lectures and providing CPD opportunities for college staff are just a few of them, and will help you raise your profile as a good employer for the most promising future talent.

Premier Inn are a great example of how this can work in practice. They offered work experience placements to students from the accredited college in Norwich and not only have they taken a large number of them on permanently, but some have already quickly progressed to management roles.

4. Developing local relationships could be critical

We don’t yet know what impact Brexit will have on our ability to recruit international talent, but we do know that hospitality is very reliant on migrant workers.

A recent report from People 1st revealed that a quarter of the industry’s workforce comes from abroad, with almost half of these coming from other EU countries.

Potential changes to immigration rules could put this route to talent at risk, so it makes sense to start building local relationships now. Having access to homegrown talent could be critical, and accredited colleges are undoubtedly the best place to find it.

5. They want to work with you!

Accredited colleges are full of young, enthusiastic people who want to build a career in your industry – but they need your help to reach their potential.

As employers, we need to work together with these organisations to raise the profile of our industries and the fantastic career opportunities on offer, and make sure that the training they deliver continues to meet our needs. Accredited colleges are committed to all of these things.

You can find your nearest accredited college here.

If your local college isn’t accredited - ask them, why not? Encourage them to get started on the process, so that you can have assurance and guaranteed quality from your local provider. It’s only by raising demand that we’ll receive the standard of training we, as an industry, deserve.

Sean Wheeler is director of people development at Project 1898 and is chair of the People 1st Accreditation Panel.

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