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Is the time and investment in apprenticeships really worth it?

Guest blog from Edward Gallier, head of learning and development, Jurys Inn and chair of the Hospitality Apprenticeship Board

As we approach the one year mark since the apprenticeship levy was introduced, Edward Gallier looks at the value of apprenticeships to Jurys Inn and to what extent they’re helping to address the skills challenges facing the hospitality sector.

Better apprenticeships and more people doing them should be music to employers’ ears, but as we know getting to that point is taking a huge amount of investment in time, energy and of course money. I was asked recently whether it is all worth it.

My answer is most certainly yes, and as the chair of the Hospitality Apprenticeship Board, which oversees one of the first employer-led models of external quality assurance of apprenticeship end-point assessment to be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships, Jurys Inn wants to do its part to make quality apprenticeships a reality.

I’m in no doubt that employers have experienced a variety of different challenges since the government first announced the apprenticeship reform and the hospitality trailblazer, responsible for developing the new apprenticeships, came together. As a sector we have embraced the reformed apprenticeship standards and end-point assessment, and have quickly adapted to a totally different approach to funding, including of course the levy. Although the levy came as a surprise to many, I am aware that many employers soon harnessed the opportunity to benefit from an investment in apprenticeships and upskilling the workforce.

Looking back on the journey that employers have taken during the reform however, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal, why apprenticeships are so important and how they can make a tremendous impact on the sector.

Apprentices have been an essential part of hundreds of sector businesses for a long time now; at Jurys Inn we have employed apprentices for over eight years. Nonetheless, I have found myself questioning over time how effectively we have integrated the programme into the business and to what extent it is working to address the wider skills and employment issues in the sector.

I think it’s fair to say that as employers we have battled with recruitment and attracting people into the sector, however as reported again last year by People 1st, the hurdle we really have to overcome is retaining our talent [1]. Reporting a 75% labour turnover rate in the sector, People 1st spell out the alarming fact that it’s costing sector employers over a billion pounds a year.  Additionally, while hospitality and tourism GVA shot up between 2008 and 2015 (52% in comparison to 28% for the economy as a whole) our per-head productivity (£25.9K) actually remains considerably low when compared to other industries such as manufacturing (£55K).

These problems may seem insurmountable, but with more employers taking a strategic approach to invest their levy in high quality, business relevant apprenticeships, we can start to make a significant improvement.

The new hospitality apprenticeships develop the transferable knowledge, skills and behaviours for key occupations in our sector and provide inspiring career progression. The good news identified from a survey with the People 1st Apprenticeship Network is that now, more than ever before, employers are focussing their attention on apprenticeships as a retention and progression tool and there is more evidence of employers taking greater steps to enable apprentices’ all-round experience to be positive and therefore excite and compel them to stay and grow with the sector.

Hospitality and tourism businesses provide a range of fabulous career opportunities, but as any group of its employers who get together even for a short time will know, the conversation regularly turns to the poor and inaccurate perception of the sector and the belief that it’s only a part-time, stop gap option.  So what are we going to do? In terms of raising skills, I think our prospects look better than ever – with new employer-driven apprenticeships in place and the government just starting to drive the development of the new T levels that will provide full-time college based technical education. This is a unique chance to fully align work-place and technical education in a way that is meaningful to employers and give individuals the best start to develop and thrive within the sector.

As an employer there are many different ways you can influence the skills agenda – the Institute for Apprenticeships will also take responsibility for technical education in 2018, and are actively encouraging employers’ input. As a starting point, you are welcome to join me as part of the People 1st Apprenticeship Network, or The Wire to discuss the latest challenges, experiences and progress that leading businesses are making in transforming their business to improve the productivity and performance of their teams.

[1] The performance and talent management revolution: Driving productivity in hospitality and tourism, People 1st, 2017

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