How can the hospitality industry bridge the skills gap?

The Staff Canteen

With 177,000 jobs in hospitality that need to be fulfilled - what needs to be done to tackle the skills gap?

There are many challenges within the hospitality industry and one of the areas identified as an area for improvement is how to fill the skills gap. John Holden, Food and Beverage Lecturer at Tameside College recently decided that action needs to be taken and set up a meeting to create a dialogue to discuss how to tackle this gap. 

Bridging the skills gap

He said: “The long-term goal is to get the industry to start looking at making those all-important links with education. We want people to see it as a career and not just a way to earn a bit of money."

Whilst this issue has been in John's consciousness for several years now, he decided to take action and set up a meeting, where he invited local representatives in hospitality to join him to establish why there is a skills gap and how this can be remedied. 

John explained: "It all started with Fred Sirieix talking about the skills shortage in the hospitality industry. There are 290 colleges out there where all these students are coming into the industry. I said to Fred, 'Let’s have a meeting to discuss this – let’s start the ball rolling and get people involved. We haven’t heard from Fred yet, but have received lots of feedback from people I know in the industry."

The meeting took place at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on July 24 2018 and had several hospitality professionals in attendance which included: Ian Snedden and Phil Dixon - Hull College, Stephen Scuffell - Craft Guild of Chefs, Sue Kenyon - Pace, Amelia Bodle - City & Guilds, Molly Shaher - Middlesbrough College / Chair of PACE, Chloe Dickinson - Joseph Holts Brewery, Niki Ball - Midland Hotel, Laura Ryan - Hyde’s Brewery, Kate Rolf - VTCT, Katie Hall and Teisha Baker - Students and industry employees.

There were several discussion points on the agenda which included: discussing the current situation in the industry, its image, how the skills gap could be filled, how to encourage people into the industry as well as improving staff retention. The group also discussed the importance of education and initiatives such as 'adopting a college'.

One of the points discussed was: 'Do colleges need industry or education more?'. The general consensus was it’s about bridging the skills gap between education and the industry. John believes that they could have closer links, but this can vary depending on your location. He cited Manchester as a good example of how the relationships between education and the industry have been developed.

He said: “For Tameside – we have fantastic links in the industry. I have got Principal hotels, the Midland hotel, Adam Reid at the French and several of our students are out there in those establishments working, so our link and our bridge with the industry is great.” 

However, this isn't the case for all areas of the country. John comments that one of the delegates revealed that they are not able to leverage similar links. For Tameside, 100% of students have been out for relevant work experience. John believes that the success of attaining these links depends on what industry is available in that area.

Some in the industry have fed back to John that some students aren't quite at the skill level that they would expect. Another consideration is that they have the skill set, but aren't used to working at the speed of a professional kitchen.

Some delegates believe that apprenticeships are not as strong as they used to be and lack of funding is a significant factor in the decline of training.

“We only have ten hours a week to deliver a full-time course" explained John. "When I went to college - I did nine to four, Monday to Friday. The funding and hours have been reduced but you still have to deliver the same course.”

Brexit was also a discussion point. John commented that '177,000 jobs will need to be filled by the year 2020' which has come from research that was published this week by City & Guilds.

The industry's issue with long hours was also discussed, John said:  “It does have that image of low pay and long hours. We discussed if there were more shift rotations,  then everybody could have a weekend off in the month. However, we haven’t got the resource to do this.”

In October, there will be a follow-up meeting at the Principal Hotel in Manchester (date TBC) and John is aiming to get more people on board and to join in the discussion. The group will be called ‘Bridging the Skills Gap’ and you can follow them on Twitter.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th July 2018

How can the hospitality industry bridge the skills gap?