The Caterer

Why Springboard is good for the sector

07 August 2015 by
Why Springboard is good for the sector

As Springboard celebrates its 25-year anniversary, we find out exactly why the industry should support the not-for-profit organisation

There are several reasons why the hospitality industry is a better place to work today than it was 25 years ago. Legislation such as the minimum wage alongside discrimination laws have certainly helped. But the Springboard Group deserves a fair share of the credit. Not least, it has helped employers raise their game by getting them to offer more positive work experiences, clearer career development and better work environments.

But it also does much more. The Springboard Group acts as a launch pad, encouraging young, unemployed and disadvantaged people to embark on a career in the hospitality industry. With the youth unemployment rate still almost three times as high as the national average, it's a huge opportunity.

"We promote the industry as a great place to work, getting across the sheer variety of jobs and the fact that it doesn't matter what qualifications you have, because there are so many facets," says Anne Pierce, who has been chief executive since 1997 and was awarded an MBE in 2004 for her contribution to the industry.

There are two sides to Springboard. The Springboard Charity develops links with schools, colleges and universities and delivers free online educational and career programmes to help students and young people under 25. The other side, Springboard UK, is the commercial arm, doing work that is not eligible for charitable status, such as addressing HR and corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs of its business partners (see the ‘How does Springboard help the industry?' panel) and raising funds to support the charity's work.

"Springboard informs young people about jobs in hospitality and makes sure they have a good work placement. This is all underpinned by us marketing the industry," says Pierce.

The group reaches more than a million people a year through online CareerScope services, social media, careers events and skills shows. More specifically, it gives bespoke one-to-one advice to 20,000 people a year, and sends out information directly to 100,000 people.

In fact, it's one long success story. Every year, its KickStart programme helps some 60% of participants find permanent employment with their work placement providers. Some 8,249 students take part in the annual FutureChef competition, with around 4,700 pursuing a cooking career as a result. On top of that, 246 people in London and 226 in Scotland benefit annually from Springboard's Into Work programmes.

The initiatives and the costs

When Stephen Moss started Springboard 25 years ago (see The Caterer interview, page 22), it garnered revenues of about £400,000. The growth of business partners, sponsorship, campaigns and a dramatic increase in fundraising work, public funding and privately funded initiatives has nudged this up. By 2010, it hit £2m and today it stands at about £3m.

Most of the costs support the employment of the 50 staff. Other costs include bills for careers materials and rent on the Springboard offices at 44 Copperfield Street, London SE1. The rest is used to assist three target groups: young jobseekers, the unemployed and those in poverty.

The organisation has a detailed three-year business plan. But before the team introduce any new initiatives, they have to secure the income to fund it. For instance, FutureChef, which reaches more than 8,000 students a year, needs to secure nearly £300,000 annually before it can run.

Springboard has no assets and is not-for-profit. In the wake of recession, the trustees have set a policy to eliminate reliance on banks. "In the last five years, despite the tough economy, we have built up a surplus of £414,000 and we want that to grow to £800,000 in the next three-year business-plan cycle," explains Anne Pierce.

How does Springboard help young people?

National Waiters Day

Here are just a few of the main Springboard initiatives that encourage young people across the UK to seek a hospitality career.


Free careers advice and guidance for students provided through careers events, Speakers into Schools programmes, website, careers materials, DVDs, one-to-one sessions and so on. In the past year, the team responded to 114,479 requests for information.

National Waiters Day

This annual event, which includes a race where waiters have to balance a cup and bottle on a tray, aims to showcase all front of house roles, from those in fine-dining restaurants to coffee shops. Some 1,500 people got involved this year with 60 activities throughout the country. It is funded through sponsorship, race registration fees and fundraising activities, with all monies raised being used for the Schools Food and Beverage Education programme being piloted in Glasgow (see the ‘Looking ahead' panel).

A Day to Sparkle

To promote housekeeping as a career opportunity.

National KP (Kitchen Porter) Day

To celebrate and raise the profile of kitchen porter staff. This year, there were some 200 entries for the KP competition and 1,000 uploaded photos describing why KPs love their job.

Inspire quality standard

Employers commit to providing effective, measurable work experiences for students and are reassessed every two years. In 2014/15, some 25 new employers received accreditation, with 22 pending. This year, the aim is to facilitate at least 15,000 Inspire work placements.

Big Hospitality Conversation

Big Hospitality Conversation

A joint initiative between the Prince of Wales's charity Business in the Community, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Springboard. It brings together top hospitality industry leaders with young people who are unemployed, on work experience or on an apprenticeship. As a result, some 60,000 new job opportunities will have been pledged by employers by 2016. Springboard aims to achieve conversion of 80% of work-experience pledges.

The Graduate Education Mentoring Support programme (GEMS)

Designed to stem the 40% drop-out rate from hospitality courses, trained industry mentors provide three-year support from the second year of study. It also promotes networking opportunities with industry leaders. Last year, there were 67 mentees and 53 mentors.


A UK-wide culinary programme that gives schoolchildren aged 12-16 a taste of the joys of cooking. The four-stage competition helps to develop culinary talent and builds links between schools, colleges and the industry to provide a natural pipeline into apprenticeships and employment. The annual event attracts 8,000 competitors from 600 schools and involves about 1,000 chefs as mentors and judges, including Brian Turner, Michael Caines and Cyrus Todiwala.

"This is FutureChef's 16th year," says Pierce. "It was evolved from being a round of competitions that lost most candidates in the first few heats to being a year-long programme that captures more young people for longer."

Cost to run £286,000

KickStart (previously the Summer School)

This UK-wide ‘try before you buy' three-week course helps young people leaving school, college or university. It covers preparation for work, short skills courses and a structured two-week work experience. Employers get a chance to talent-spot and Springboard helps broker permanent work or apprenticeships. There is a high conversion rate of more than 80% into either a vocational course or a job. The target this year is to help more than 100 students.

Cost to run £130,000

Into Work Programmes

These programmes help the long-term unemployed make the transition into work. They also embrace those who are living in poverty or who have been involved in gang culture or crime in the past.

Resource Gateway

A state-of-the-art website that offers free hospitality-related educational support for teachers, such as computer programs, games and training packs.

Springboard Ambassadors

Ambassadors are talented go-getters selected from across the UK because of their commitment to the industry. This crucial army of young professionals are given two days' training by Springboard to develop their presentation skills and industry knowledge. They then go out into schools, colleges, universities and Jobcentres to promote the industry and their employer as an exciting career choice. It costs £250 to train a single ambassador or £1,500 for 10 to 12 people.

Sarah Walsh, 27, front office manager at the Chesterfield Mayfair, Red Carnation Hotels, scooped the Springboard Ambassador Award 2014, having been in the role for two years.

"I emphasise the many different careers available in hospitality," she says. "You can be an accountant, a driver, a breakfast chef or an electrician.

"One young girl joined us for a year-long work placement from her university course. She was shy and reserved to start with, but developed into one of the strongest members of the reception team. She was eager to learn more and spent time in reservations and night duties. She even shadowed senior management. It was amazing to see her grow as a person during her work placement year."

How does Springboard help the industry?

KickStart graduation ceremony

One of Springboard's key contributions is in promoting the industry as a great place to work. In particular, it provides tailored services to its 73 business partners, ranging from giants such as Hilton Worldwide and Compass to independents such as the Headland hotel in Cornwall. Each pays an annual fee and, in return, Springboard helps promote their brand, sending trained ambassadors out into schools and careers fairs to attract the right calibre of recruit.

Fees vary, but a small one-off business partner may pay £250 for an Inspire-related activity, while a large company may contribute more than £30,000, depending on the services required. "We get across your culture, how recruits can gain entry and what your commitment is to career progression, so the recruit can see if you are the right employer for them," says Pierce.

"We look at what sort of apprenticeship a company might want, for instance, front of house, administration or back of house. Then we offer a programme that could drive it - for example, FutureChef or KickStart."

Springboard also helps companies to deliver CSR objectives through working in communities and schools. "But there are certain companies that we wouldn't work with, because of their reputation," confirms Pierce.

The 40-strong Ed's Easy Diner chain is a Springboard business partner. Chief executive Andrew Guy says: "Over the past three years, we've worked closely with Springboard to obtain around 400 local staff for our growing number of UK diners. We have a huge amount of respect for what they do, nurturing unemployed people into the workforce and helping people reach their potential."

Another business partner is the Headland hotel in Newquay, which was the first hotel in Cornwall to achieve Springboard Inspire accreditation. HR manager Michelle Brown says: "A few Headland staff have become trained Springboard Ambassadors. The course provides individuals with the opportunity to give something back to the industry they love and is a great platform to get people interested in a career they may not otherwise have considered."

Key fundraising initiatives

2011 Great wall of China trek

The blockbuster annual charity fundraiser is the Awards for Excellence - the next one will be held on 2 November at Novotel London West.

This year, there has also been the Silver Diamond Ball, held on 25 June at Wembley Stadium, in conjunction with Delaware North. Some 800 guests attended, raising £141,000. And in September, Hotel Football in Manchester is hosting a dinner for 200 people to raise funds for Into Work programmes to help disadvantaged young people in Manchester into hospitality.

Further funds are raised through quiz nights, cycling challenges and the annual trek. First launched five years ago, the treks raise at least £3,000 per participant through sponsorship. The next trek - in Peru - will take place from 11 to 22 March 2016, and volunteers are being recruited now. Pierce has taken part in every one so far, using her holiday time to do so, personally paying the £1,500 to £1,800 cost.

Visit the website for details:

Top fundraising achievements

  • 2011 Great wall of China trek (23 trekkers) raises £150,000 to help disadvantaged youngsters
  • 2011/2012 Thistle and Guoman Hotels and Exclusive Hotels raise £100,000 and £51,000 respectively for the Springboard Charity
  • 2014 Nepal trek (22 trekkers) raises £140,000 to help support nearly 100 young people into employment
  • 2015 Little Tibet trek (32 trekkers), raises £125,000 to help 75 young people achieve jobs in hospitality

Lives changed by Springboard

Mohammed Ali Khali

Age 23

Programme Hospitality in Heathrow

Current job Barman, Heathrow Marriott hotel

Mohammed Ali Khali had been going to the JobCentre for eight months and was getting desperate. He'd had a brief three-month spell in employment after being out of work for a year and a half.

"I had left college where I had been doing a travel and tourism course. It was too tough and nobody was helping me," says Khali.

A talk from a Springboard Ambassador at the JobCentre changed all that. He was quickly referred to Hospitality in Heathrow, a six-week programme run with a donation from the Heathrow Community Fund, which included two weeks' work experience.

"It got me back in the right mentality to work, how to communicate with people and be professional," says Khali. "I started in the restaurant on a two-week work experience placement and then Marriott was impressed with me and offered me a contract."

So, within weeks, Khali had been trained and offered a job as a barman with a world-class hotel. He was one of 15 young people to 'graduate'. "Now my hopes are to be promoted in the future," says Khali.

Michael Gallagher

Age 23

Programme Diageo Learning for Life

Current job Tour guide at Tennent's Wellpark Brewery, Stirling

Michael Gallagher found himself unemployed for a year, having dropped out of a biochemistry and microbiology degree at the University of Strathclyde because the course "wasn't working out".

"I had a sense of dejection and frustration," says Gallagher. "I felt that because I had dropped out of college I was being passed over for work. I couldn't get a job."

Help came in the form of the Diageo Learning for Life programmes, which Springboard has a contract to deliver. Designed with employer's needs in mind, they provide skills through four modules - bartending, hospitality, retail and entrepreneurship. Gallagher chose hospitality because it was broader, covering hotels.

The four-week course included a two-week unpaid work placement followed by two weeks of paid work. Gallagher was sent to help out with the catering at the Ryder Cup.

"I was selected for the five-star section. It was good to see how much the caterers - Wild Thyme and Mecco - had put their trust in me," says Gallagher.

"Then, fairly seamlessly, I managed to get a job as a tour guide at Tennent's Brewery.

"I think the experience I gained at the Ryder Cup helped because I showed I could talk to people, give them information on the wine and serve drinks," says Gallagher. "In my role here I am looking after tourists, interacting with them, talking about the beer and giving them a tasting session."

William Yarney

Age 24

Programme Summer School 2007/08, aged 16 (now KickStart)

Current role Assistant bar manager, Shangri-La hotel at the Shard, London

William Yarney heard about the summer school from his food technology teacher while studying for his GCSEs. Having got on the three-week course, he was offered a two-week work placement front and back of house at the Berkeley hotel in London.

"Aged 16, you don't know what you want, or can, do," he says. "It was a conduit into the hospitality industry for me. " Yarney went on to do an advanced VRQ level 3 in Cookery and Service at Westminster Kingsway college.

During this time, he worked on a part-time basis at the Berkeley hotel, learning the basics by serving afternoon tea. He then moved to Pierre Koffmann's restaurant in the hotel, working up from chef de rang to head waiter.

After four years at the Berkeley, Yarney was offered a job as a cocktail waiter at the W London Leicester Square hotel.

"Working at W added another dimension," says Yarney. "Five-star funky hotels such as W appeal to the younger generation. I am a 21st-century kid who has been classically trained."

After two years at W, he was approached to join the opening team at the Shangri-La hotel at the Shard as a bar supervisor, and has since been promoted to assistant bar manager.

"The Summer School was a kick-start and I am fortunate to have had a full career so far," says Yarney. "I think my next step will be a promotion. And one day I want to have my own bar."

Ruth Hansom

Age 18

Programme FutureChef runner-up in 2012

Current job Apprentice chef at the Ritz hotel, London

Ruth Hansom was studying for her GCSEs in her home town of Darlington when she was named national runner up in the 2012 FutureChef programme. It was a big milestone for the 16-year-old, who had been regional winner in FutureChef 2010 and third nationally in 2011.

It was enough to ignite Hansom's interest in cooking as a career and she is currently a Royal Academy of Culinary Arts apprentice, linked to Westminster Kingsway College. Hansom is completing the three-year course on day-release from the Ritz in London.

"In 2010, I was not that interested in cooking as a career, although I was doing a food technology GCSE. But when I got to the national finals of FutureChef I could see that this was an exciting industry," says Hansom. "The mentor chefs guided me and made me feel special. I definitely want to stay in this industry."

In June, Hansom joined fellow FutureChef alumni alongside Delaware North chefs to cook at the Springboard Silver Diamond Ball at Wembley.

Looking ahead

Former FutureChef winner Sophie Copping

With FutureChef such a success, the next big challenge for Springboard is to raise the image of front of house and housekeeping among young people. Funds raised from this year's National Waiters Day are being used to develop the Food and Beverage Education (or FaB) programme, which is being piloted in Glasgow and will be rolled out to London and Cornwall in September.

The plan is to develop modules to support the curriculum, including maths, English, drama and food technology. Teachers can take the lesson plans from the Resource Gateway website. Ultimately, the aim is to have a team challenge similar to FutureChef.

Springboard is also trying to gauge the relevance of the organisation's work and will launch a survey in the autumn into what influences students' career decisions.

"We are researching, for instance, whether our activity on social media is ticking the right boxes," says Pierce. "I think work experience is still a deal-breaker. The research will test that and if we are wrong, we will have to change our focus."

And not least it is piloting schemes to boost its effectiveness in the regions, particularly Cumbria, Cornwall, Devon, Bristol, Bath and Somerset.

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