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Hospitality leaders cite apprenticeships as key tool to combat staff shortages

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Learning and development leads from across the hospitality industry joined together at the Loving Hospitality 2022 Summit earlier this month to discuss the effect of staffing challenges on operations teams and how focusing on apprenticeships could help alleviate these pressures.

The event was hosted and run by the UK’s largest apprenticeship provider, Lifetime, which partners with a broad range of leading employers from the hospitality sector.

Pre-pandemic, the hospitality industry provided around £130bn in economic activity annually, employing around 3.2 million people, but the supply and demand issues currently facing in the industry has seen hospitality vacancies reach 158,000 in the third quarter of 2022.

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Between August and September 2022 alone it is claimed that 8.3% of the workforce left the sector, the highest level since March 2020.

The consensus of the summit was that no individual organisation will meet these challenges on their own and that “coherent and collaborative” working across the industry would be required.

The top four staffing challenges discussed were:  how to attract more people into the industry to plug skills gaps and reduce the number of vacancies in the sector , increasing retention , identifying and championing industry and organisational supporters, and launching more early careers and promoting growth and promotion .

Apprenticeships are cited as a solution to many staffing challenges as well as meeting DE&I objectives, providing a direct route into the industry that could have a big impact on retention.

On average, 73% of employees are still working for the same employer two years after completing their apprenticeship. When combined with the 18 months that it takes to complete the apprenticeship, employers are looking at an average length of service of 3.5 years, remarkably higher than the current average staff turnover.

Apprenticeships have a big impact on talent planning, with 52% of employees that complete an apprenticeship going on to be promoted or given additional responsibilities.

With social mobility and DE&I an increasing imperative for organisations, apprenticeships are making a notable contribution.

Currently 27% of employees working towards an apprenticeship with Lifetime are living in a deprived area.

Despite these attainments, more work is required at an organisational level to enlist support for apprenticeships as a sustainable recruitment strategy.

Currently only 30% of operations teams understand and buy into their apprenticeship strategy, with the main barrier to operation team engagement being other organisational pressures and priorities.

Business leaders highlighted that the following measures would be needed to improve the effectiveness of apprenticeships: better layered communication to operations teams about the benefits of apprenticeships , demonstrate the ROI of apprenticeship schemes, celebrate apprenticeship successes within the organisation and champion achievers , manage expectations of operations teams about apprentices to promote a culture of mentorship and support , and remove misleading language such as ‘off the job training’.

Dan Sullivan, head of partnerships, hospitality at Lifetime, said: “It was great to see leaders from the UK’s biggest hospitality chains come together to discuss the important challenges in the industry and unite on remedial measures.

“Despite the staffing challenges currently being faced by the sector, it’s encouraging that the industry overall is growing. In the Southwest alone there are 50,000 new hotel beds set to launch in 2023/24. Investment in the sector is there, as well as public demand.

“Hospitality provides not only a job, but a career with compelling progression opportunities for all ages. Whilst a perception change may be required from operations teams, collaborative working with measurable targets could see apprenticeships transform the sector and alleviate many industry pain points.”

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Tags : Lifetime
Joshua Walton

The author Joshua Walton

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