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How apprenticeships are helping to address the recruitment and retention challenges faced by the hospitality sector

In 2015, leading employers in the hospitality industry embarked on journey to tackle the sector’s recruitment and retention challenges through taking ownership of the skills agenda through apprenticeships. Fast forward four years and the benefits of this investment is starting to come to fruition, with over 18,000 apprentices currently undertaking the new standards and employers seeing significant impact on retention.

Low productivity and high labour turnover in hospitality have historically been seen by employers as facts of life. However with businesses having to boost efficiency in order to offset rising costs whilst at the same time maximising customer experience and profitability, employers have been actively working on finding solutions.

The Hospitality Skills & Quality Board – which brings together employers on the hospitality apprenticeship trailblazer and hospitality apprenticeship board – was formed to drive the quality of apprenticeships, ensuring they remain fit for purpose, but also have a wider interest to align other workplace skills and vocational education activities in the UK.

Faciliated by People 1st International, members of the board have been working collectively to develop apprenticeship standards in hospitality to help tackle the skills and productivity challenges. With seven standards now live and over 18,000 apprentices registered on programmes, employers are beginning to reap the rewards.

Building progressive career pathways for over 18,000 apprentices

Ranging from hospitality team member and commis chef at level two through to hospitality manager and senior culinary chef at level four, seven standards have been developed for hospitality. They form progressive career pathways, incorporating the knowledge, skills and behaviours employers have defined for today’s industry.

The standards have been designed so that they apply across the sector, allowing organisations to incorporate their own ways of working, products and services into the learning and development, whilst ensuring it meets one national standard.

As of October 2018, there were over 18,000 apprentices registered across the range of hospitality standards – a healthy percentage of which have now progressed through to completion.

Greene King has over 1,600 apprentices on the hospitality standards, supporting the internal progression of their people. They’ve found the structure of the apprenticeships with the knowledge, skills and behaviours is aligned to the job role requirements which helps to ensure the training supports their people to develop and progress through the business. 

“It’s well documented that there is a shortage of chefs and apprenticeships alongside our recruitment campaign, are delivering us great results to overcome this. By successfully recruiting external candidates and existing employees on to standards, we have seen improved retention rates and reduced recruitment costs - which is positive news in an industry with high turnover. 

“We are proud to say a high number of apprentices have completed an apprenticeship and then progressed, which shows our training which is embedded into our wider L&D offer is providing our people with the tools to succeed and benefit their career aspirations.” - Graham Briggs, Head of Apprenticeships and Employability Programmes, Greene King

Tackling skills shortages and boosting retention

Employers are finding that the new standards are helping to address specific skills shortages across the industry.

The chef shortage is a fundamental and well-documented challenge for the hospitality industry - and one that is now starting to have a real impact on the way restaurants and other food businesses operate. Projections suggest the industry will need an additional 11,000 chefs in the next five years and that businesses are still struggling to fill vacancies.

Since the chef apprenticeship standards were introduced, they have given businesses much greater flexibility in how they develop the skills and knowledge of apprentice chefs. Having been created by employers themselves they are a fantastic solution for businesses looking to develop skilled chefs.

Brend Hotels currently has over 75 apprentices on the hospitality standards across levels two, three and four. They believe the standards offer a more robust and fulfilling experience:

“A shortage of chef culinary skills is one of the biggest challenges we face as a business. The chef apprenticeship standards are a critical solution for us in addressing this shortage plus they help to increase retention, productivity and customer service.

“We were one of the first employers to use the new hospitality standards, and as a result have already had over 30 apprentices complete on the standards in the last twelve months.

“The apprenticeships provide a fantastic progression route and with standards from level two to level four, it means we can develop employees from entry level through to more senior roles. Our retention rate for apprentices is 75%, which is significantly higher than our average of 49% across the business.” Andrew Mosedale, Principal, Brend Training Academy

The Royal Automobile Club is also finding the standards are adding significant value to their business in terms of retention. They have skills gaps in two main areas – the gulf between a commis chef and a chef de partie.

“It is hard to recruit chef de partie’s so we are using the level three apprenticeship to develop our own talent. We are also developing our supervisors through the hospitality supervisor standard as there is a big gap in ability between operating as a supervisor and that of a manager.

“We have seen apprentices exhibit a desire to improve their skills and that those who are on the apprenticeship standard have a wider skillset than those who are not on the standard. Our apprentices are highly motivated and proud to be on the programmes which in turn is helping with retention and engagement.” - Graham Bishop, Learning & Development Manager, Royal Automobile Club

Using apprenticeships to challenge perceptions

Marston’s, which has 500 apprentices, has been using the new standards to focus on three key areas: volume pub roles to increase retention and improve stability which has focused on attracting/ developing young talent; critical/ hard to fill roles; and targeting top talent to build succession.  

“The new standards have enabled us to develop a diverse range of apprentices, and we’re seeing fantastic results for the business. The impact on retention - in particular with our chef apprentices as a result of the senior chef production standard – is extremely encouraging. Our company turnover is in line with industry - however apprentice turnover is just 32%.

“Traditionally our area manager positions are not filled internally, however apprenticeships have helped to bridge this gap and support the development of our operations managers – with four of our six apprentices on secondment from their pub management role having now been offered a permanent area manager appointment within 6 months.” - Jo Bradford, Group Apprenticeship Manager, Marston’s

Marston’s is also using apprenticeships to help challenge perceptions of careers in the industry. They’re collaborating with Mitchell’s & Butler and Greene King through a new initiative, ‘Loving Hospitality’, to deliver on a pledge ‘to make hospitality one of the most sought after places to work and build a career’ – busting the myth that working in a pub just ‘a job’ and highlighting the fantastic career opportunities that hospitality has to offer.

Using apprenticeships as a hook, the partnership is exhibiting at a range of interactive skills shows across the country to showcase the benefits the industry has to offer, and to highlight why an apprenticeship is an ideal entry route to get into and progress through the industry.

“Our exhibition gives young people the opportunity to see what their skill is, whether it’s guessing the flavour, cake decorating or having a go at pulling a pint (of cold tea, not beer!). Ultimately we’re showcasing the diversity and the range of career prospects that the industry offers – highlighting the vibrant and fast-paced environment that will reward them with personal growth and rapid progression.” - Jo Bradford, Group Apprenticeship Manager, Marston’s

View from the chair of the Hospitality Skills & Quality Board

Chair of the Hospitality Skills & Quality Board, Kathryn Porter, Director of Youth Strategy for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Hilton, comments on the achievements of the board and the impact of apprenticeships:

“With over 18,000 apprentices now registered on the hospitality standards, it’s fantastic to hear so many fabulous examples of how apprenticeships are proving a significant solution to addressing the recruitment and retention challenges faced by the sector.

“Having worked with colleagues around the table of the Hospitality Skills & Quality Board over the past five years to develop the standards it’s great to see the value that the employer-led approach to apprenticeships is bringing.

“Our role doesn’t stop here though. Having opted for an employer-led approach to quality assurance in hospitality, with the support of People 1st International, we now have an active role in maintaining the quality of apprenticeships.

“The current evaluation People 1st International is taking to review the hospitality standards is a great example of how we’re continually monitoring the effectiveness of the standards and end-point assessment, taking the views from a wide range of businesses across the industry to ensure we maximise the impact of apprenticeships.”

To find out more about the work of the Hospitality Skills & Quality Board visit: http://www.people1st.co.uk/hospitality-skills-quality-board/